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Provider; Public
5/11/2020 2:00 AM

Linda HughesThe 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 happening.”

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.

Thank you.