UNA continues call for nurses to be included in presumptive coverage for psychological injuries

Alberta nurses continue to call on the province to include nurses in presumptive coverage for psychological injuries by Workers’ Compensation, which is extended to other first responders such as police officers, fire fighters and paramedics.

“Through the nature of their work, nurses are routinely exposed to traumatic events in the workplace,” United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith said last year. “Nurses should not be forced to wait for – or be denied – access to Workers’ Compensation benefits after experiencing traumatic events while on the job.”

UNA will continue to press for recognition that nurses working on the front lines of the health care system should be included with other first responders in not needing to provide proof of a causal link to post-traumatic stress disorder and workplace incidents to receive coverage, said UNA Second Vice-President Cameron Westhead.

Those occupations, the government rightly said in a recent news release, “experience post-traumatic stress injuries at significantly higher rates than the general population.”

So do nurses, who are also first responders, Westhead pointed out.

On May 9, Alberta Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones issued the press release quoted above, in which he said, “first responders and emergency workers have Albertans’ backs, and Alberta’s government is committed to supporting their mental health needs.”

He was announcing $1.5 million in grants for research on how to improve treatment and prevention programs to “help alleviate some of the suffering first responders and emergency workers living with post-traumatic stress injuries face.”

The next day, on May 10, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange marked National Nurses Week by publishing a certificate lauding Alberta’s nurses for their “integral role in the delivery of high-quality care to Albertans.” She declared May 6 to 12 to be Nursing Week in Alberta.

Yet in Alberta nurses continue to have to prove they are suffering from traumatic psychological injuries that result from a workplace event in order to have their psychological injury claims for Workers Compensation approved.

The only obvious difference is that the professions that receive presumptive coverage are dominated by men, while in the nursing profession a majority of practitioners are women. This is discriminatory and unfair, said Westhead.

“UNA has been pushing for front-line nurses to be included in presumptive coverage for years,” he said. “We won’t rest until this discriminatory omission is eliminated.”