The World Health Organization declared 2020 the
International year of the Nurse and Midwife. In Canada, National Nurses Week
takes place in the second week of May. During all the pressures and uncertainty
of COVID-19, we have relied on nurses at the front lines of healthcare more
than ever before – in these stories, we celebrate our staff, friends, and
partners who have chosen this heroic life of sacrifice and service.
“I am a nurse,” said Linda Hughes, co-Chair of Patients
for Patient Safety Canada. “We’re the backbone of the healthcare system. If
you don’t have nurses, you don’t do surgery or care for COVID patients.
Everyone else comes and goes.”
Linda took a five-year degree program at the University of
Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. She earned both her RN and her Bachelor of Science
in Nursing, specializing in her fifth year in teaching and administration.
After teaching for several years at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and raising her
children, she started working in mental health as a general duty nurse and
continuing clinical educator in Winnipeg.
Following being a clinical educator at a long-term care
facility, Linda became Nursing Director for the Winnipeg Regional Health
Authority’s mental health program. In her spare time, she was operational nursing
director of the largest acute care mental health facility in Manitoba.
Meanwhile, she completed a Master of Public Administration degree to appreciate
the policy element behind healthcare. Since retiring, she taught at the
University of Manitoba and has served on a number of boards, where her
healthcare experience has served her well.
“They put out a call for retired nurses,” Linda said, years
after she retired even from teaching and now facing a global pandemic. “If I
had been within the five-year cut off, I would be volunteering right now. You
feel an obligation, like you want to do something to help.” And she does. Linda
volunteers four or five hours a week, checking up on traced COVID contacts to
monitor their health during self-isolation.
Linda said that she thinks most nurses would do the same,
and indeed she feels her nursing background helps her understand patient
safety, even during the pandemic.
“When I was a director in the healthcare system, critical
incidents in mental health came across my desk and I was involved in the
investigation,” she said. “Understanding the system really helps with my work
in patient safety now, like it did back when I was a nurse. Mistakes don’t
happen because of bad people, but things in the system contribute to bad things
That said, Linda feels that nursing education could have a
lot more emphasis on patient safety. And, once nurses start practicing, they
should find many supports in place to keep them safe, such as sufficient
staffing, personal protective equipment, and programs to support them.
“By supporting our nurses and focusing on patient care,” she
concludes, “we will get through this pandemic together.”
The Canadian Patient Safety Institute honours the efforts
of all nurses – indeed, all healthcare providers – across Canada and around the
world. They are some of our strongest advocates for patient safety and patient
care. The safety of patients is absolutely essential to proper healthcare, and
we rely on nurses every day.