On Wednesday, April 10, 2019, RPNs from across the province gathered at Queen’s Park for RPNAO’s first Lobby Day since Ontario’s change in government—a day of advocacy, relationship- and awareness-building.

Nearly 100 RPNs registered to travel to Toronto for the day to show their support and speak to Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) from all four parties about the value that RPNs bring to Ontario patients and the health care system overall. The event brought together passionate advocates from communities across Ontario, working to advance provincial policies that will impact the nursing profession and the expert care RPNs bring to patients every day.

As advocates headed into their MPP meetings, they were focused on three specific asks:

  • Make sure all health professionals are putting their education and experience to best use. We need to be building high-functioning, well-integrated patient care teams that empower all members to deliver care to the fullest extent of their expertise. Modest regulatory changes to RPNs’ scope of practice will bring better care to our most vulnerable people and better value to our health system.
  • Develop a Health Human Resources Strategy that puts nurses where we need them. RPNAO believes that if Ontarians are going to get the quality health care they deserve, they need experienced, compassionate, knowledgeable professionals at the bedside. In many cases, that professional is and should be an RPN. With expected shortages of RNs on the horizon, we need a strategy to ensure we have enough health professionals on the front lines. Without RPNs, hallway health care cannot be solved. 
  • Create career laddering opportunities for RPNs to address expected shortages of RNs. Given their existing knowledge, skill and experience, RPNs who wish to do so are well-placed to career ladder to a RN. By expanding education and supports for career laddering, the government can accelerate the pace at which the province can create new RNs in a cost-effective way.

The day kicked off with productive meetings with key MPPs, including the Official Opposition Health Critic, NDP MPP France Gelinas, and the third party Interim Leader and Health Critic, Liberal MPP John Fraser. Following these and other early-morning meetings, advocates and RPNAO representatives made their way to the House to view the day’s Question Period, where RPNs were introduced in the House by a number of MPPs, including Lindsey Park (Durham), Stephen Crawford (Oakville), Percy Hatfield (Windsor—Tecumseh), Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough—Guildwood) and others.

The afternoon was filled with more productive meetings with key MPPs and influencers from all political parties, including the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, MPP Robin Martin; Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, MPP Stephen Lecce; Leader of the Official Opposition, MPP Andrea Horwath; and Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner.

The day wrapped up with an evening reception and a chance for RPNs and RPNAO representatives to mix-and-mingle and chat more informally with MPPs from across the province. During the reception, we were also grateful to have remarks on the value and importance of RPNs for Ontario health care from Minister Christine Elliott and MPPs France Gelinas, John Fraser, and Mike Schreiner.

All in all, we had a successful event with great turn-out, both from RPNs and MPPs. Officials were eager to learn more about the important role RPNs play and show their support for our frontline professionals.

Since the 2018 election we have worked hard to build a strong relationship with the new government, so that RPNAO is best positioned to advocate for our members – to make sure RPNs are empowered to give the compassionate care patients need and deserve. This was a day to build on that relationship, while also strengthening the important ties we have to all the other parties at Queen’s Park – NDP, Liberals, and Green alike. It was also, crucially, a chance for front-line RPNs to make real for our elected officials the incredible work they’re doing every single day, and the challenges they often face. That’s a vital part of our push for positive change.

I was pleased to see the very next day that the government has committed in principle to expanding scope of practice for front-line care providers. We will be working closely with government in the weeks to come to build on the momentum created out of our Lobby Day to ensure those include changes for RPNs.

This year, like every year, I was inspired to be surrounded by such passionate, dedicated and like-minded folks. Each year I look forward to spending our Lobby Day with the people who are at the heart of RPNAO and who, every day, make me proud to represent this organization. Together, we were able to advance our vital needs so we can better serve Ontario patients.

Thank you to all who participated in this years Lobby Day and contributed to our great success!