Recently Canadian provincial governments have begun allowing lower-paid Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to replace Registered Nurses (RNs) in hospitals. RNs argue that LPNs have less training, and fear this may represent lowered healthcare standards.
LPNs say they are well trained for their assigned duties, and compare their education to working older nurses who received diplomas before nursing became a university-based degree program.
Media reports have largely framed the debate as a turf war between professional associations. However, at stake is a fundamental question of potential cost-savings over quality in a sector that deals with people's very lives. There has been little focus on explaining the actual training and qualifications required for each group, or the role health care funding plays in driving the change.
Many supporters of this change have stated that limited availability of RNs has forced the recent changes. RNs, on the other hand, say there are enough nurses willing to work, but that their existing shifts are being given to LPNs.
There was some coverage of the issue by Alberta’s Global TV affiliates in 2013, however there has been little follow-up since. In 2014, Saskatchewan nurses held a special meeting to discuss similar changes in their province. Saskatchewan media coverage had also focused mainly on Alberta, although the trend is countrywide. The claim that RN shifts are being given to LPNs has not been widely reported.
Karen Born, Infran Dhalla & Mary Ferguson-Paré, “Evidence-based Hospital Nurse Staffing: The Challenges,” Healthy Debate, Sept. 26, 2013. http://healthydebate.ca/2013/09/topic/politics-of-health-care/nurse-staffing-mix
Meaghan Craig, “Saskatchewan registered nurses speak out about proposed bylaw changes.” Global News Regina, Oct. 7. 2014. http://globalnews.ca/news/1601486/saskatchewan-registered-nurses-speak-out-about-proposed-bylaw-changes/
College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta, “Editorial: Let’s Get Some Facts Straight,” Sept. 23, 2011.
Canadian Council for Practical Nurse Regulators, “Become an LPN/RN,” n.d. http://www.ccpnr.ca/become-an-lpnrpn/
Student researcher: Dylan Bernhardt (University of Regina)
Faculty advisor: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)