Nursing assistants have long been the backbone of the Canadian health care system, and they’re often seen as the face of the profession.
As the number of Canadians getting their first appointment in a nursing home approaches an all-time high, a growing number of experts are calling for a more nuanced view of nursing.
What if the nursing assistant title didn’t just mean “medical aid worker”?
In some cases, it could also be a role that’s traditionally filled by a family caregiver, like a mother, father, or a brother.
“In a sense, there’s no better job title than nursing assistant, and we should have a more inclusive definition,” said Marissa Stoddart, president of the Society of Nursing Administrators.
“The job is really important to people, and it’s an incredibly important role for the community, so we have to consider a range of options.”
What about family caregivers?
What about a sister, niece, aunt, uncle?
Stoddard says some nursing assistants will have a different job title if their parents are caregivers.
But she also says there’s nothing wrong with a family caretaker as a role model.
“When someone is working in a hospital setting and you’re a caregiver and you help someone who needs it, it’s a role you should be very proud of,” she said.
Why is it important to be inclusive?
It’s important to include a broader range of career options for nursing assistants, said Elizabeth Sallis, a nursing professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in the role.
When it comes to choosing a career, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an RN, a nurse practitioner, a social worker, a home health worker, or just an administrator.
For some professions, it might be that you just want to continue to be part of the community in some capacity, Sallides said.
For others, it may be that the role is just right for you.
“Nursing is an important profession, so you’re going to want to be as culturally competent as you can, and I think it’s important for nursing to include people of all different backgrounds and abilities,” she explained.
What do you think about the new nursing profession?
As the number and diversity of Canadians entering nursing has increased, so too has the number who are already employed, said Sallidis.
The number of nursing students in the country increased by 8 per cent between 2015 and 2016, but the average age of those entering nursing schools has decreased from 22 to 22.9 years.
The Canadian nursing industry has experienced a steady growth in the last decade, Sallsides said, and is expected to see a similar rise in the next few years.
In fact, the industry is expected be worth about $8 billion in 2019.
If we want to stay relevant in the global economy, it is imperative that we continue to develop our workforce and develop our capabilities to help Canadians thrive in the workforce and to grow our economy, she said, adding that nursing is “a high-tech sector that’s going to be at the heart of this.”
What are some other ways to think about nursing?
Sallis suggests nursing needs to be a diverse and inclusive profession, and says the profession should be viewed as a profession in which people from different backgrounds are working together in support of the health and well-being of others.
To be truly inclusive, she says, the role of nursing should be driven by people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, as well as those who are not already employed in nursing.
As for what you can do to stay in touch with the profession?
Sallides encourages people to keep an eye out for opportunities in nursing, and to seek out career guidance and help from local organizations.
She also says it’s also important to seek help in your local community if you have concerns about the nursing profession, as there are many organizations that offer support to members of the public.
But for the majority of Canadians, the nursing career isn’t for them, said Stoddamis.
She recommends that those who choose nursing become part of organizations that promote a more diverse workforce, as they’re a good fit for nursing.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that while you might be able to find work in nursing as an administrator, you may not always get the respect you deserve.
Follow Jamie Kondo on Twitter: @JamieKondo