On the eve of the election, serious voices and votes of nurses are needed

These are unsettling times for anyone living in Alberta, especially the nurses who are the backbone of our troubled provincial health care system.

The provincial election expected to take place on May 29 has focused the thoughts of many Albertans on the challenges facing our health care system and many other daunting problems in our society, including the uncertainty all of us feel about what the future holds.

Regardless of who or what political parties we have supported in the past, I am sure that most Albertans – and certainly most nurses and other health care workers – hope above all that together we will elect a government that will take a serious, thoughtful approach to the difficulties we will face in a changing world.

The curriculum in my nursing school in Ontario focused on adaptation. This is what nurses must do to help our patients when they face physical and mental challenges that will change their lives. We help them address the requirement to adapt to new circumstances, and we help them find ways to adapt that lets them move on in life.

I have been thinking about that in the context of the challenges facing all Canadians and I believe nurses can – and must – play the same role in democratic society.

There are serious issues facing health care that our governments must step up and meet. But there are many other issues facing Alberta and Canada that deserve the same serious and thoughtful approach by our political leaders.

We face a national and provincial housing crisis. Beyond immediate medical responses, there is a need for fair and sustainable long-term care. There are other determinants of health that, ignored, will lead to many more problems and higher costs in health care.

Beyond those issues, as a society and as humanity we face climate change and the economic change the world’s response to higher average global temperatures is bound to cause. Again, we require thoughtful, sober, serious leaders to navigate these changes, and we need to be prepared to adapt to change in ways that protect the best things in our society and also prioritize the rights of Albertans and Canadians.

This will not be easy. It has never been clearer that we need thoughtful, courageous, serious leaders.

Nurses have an opportunity to lead. It is well understood that nurses are respected – for their skills, their education, and their humanity.

Alberta, and the world, needs more of those qualities than ever before right now. Our votes – and our voices – have never been more important than in the weeks before Election 2023!

Heather Smith

President, United Nurses of Alberta