“I have been a registered nurse for over two decades. On one shift I found a patient hanging. I managed to successfully resuscitate him and while doing so I injured myself but continued to work. After my shift, I was unable to sleep but returned to work the next night. I made it through that shift, however the insomnia continued.

I have complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now. My PTSD consists of every trauma patient, every crying family member, every death, every death notification, every conflict all demanding attention in my mind. In the early months after my diagnosis all I did was cry. A few years later I can honestly say I have some good days where I can smile and enjoy life. There were times I thought that would not be the case. I have gone from a nurse to a mental-health patient.

That is just one story of the many similar ones I have heard from our nurses. Nurses become nurses because there is an innate desire to help, support and heal people who need it most. The profession is in-demand around the world — there is currently a global nursing shortage.

Within that context, a number of systemic problems have developed, resulting in what has now been recognized as a psychologically unhealthy work environment.

A particular issue that needs to be countered is that of the psychologically unhealthy work environment. Across the country, nurses and other health-care professionals are routinely exposed to unnecessary trauma, bullying, violence, stress, and human suffering. The lingering effects of these experiences is unhealthy for those working in health-care, just as it would be in any profession.

BCNU’s long-held view is that healthy work environments improve patient safety, enhance recruitment and retention of nurses and promote excellence in clinical practice. In demonstration of that commitment, BCNU was the first union to have negotiated mandatory implementation of the 2013 Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace into our collective agreement. Adopting those guidelines means that the employer now must assess and mitigate the risks associated with a psychologically unsafe work environment. The union’s position is that such a transformational achievement can only serve as a blueprint for change that will positively evolve the workplace landscape not only for nurses, but for all health-care professionals–subsequently resulting in better care for patients and their families.

There is no question that we must work to create psychologically healthy work environments for our nurses and the health-care professionals they collaboshow that more than ever before, nurses are ending up victims of violence themselves. Nurses are regularly subjected to verbal assaults, racial slurs, pinching, hitting or being bit. At times, nurses are even subject to inappropriate sexual touching while trying to provide care.

Violence in BC health-care facilities has reached shocking levels. According rate with. BCNU regularly hosts day-long personal resiliency workshops designed to teach our members how to counter the after-effects of delivering care under stressful and traumatic situations.

Personal resilience refers to the ability to recover balance and regain a sense of well-being. Essentially, such workshops help our nurses to recognize trauma effects when they show up in daily life. BCNU also continues to press policy makers and health employers to embark on a complete reform of health-care workplaces to make them more psychologically supportive and healthier.