Opinion

Ontario’s registered practical nurses deserve ‘fair compensation’

More than a year has now passed since Ontario first entered a province-wide lockdown. One year that our nurses, and their colleagues in health care, have been fighting tirelessly on the front lines of this pandemic. A fight that has cost, to date, nearly 50 Canadian health-care workers the ultimate price.

We’ve heard stories of the immense devastation this pandemic has caused, particularly in our province’s long-term care homes, and the personal toll it has had on people, families and our front-line health-care workers. A recent WeRPN survey found that 71 per cent of registered practical nurses (RPNs) have experienced a breaking point, with 96 per cent reporting being more stressed and 67 per cent noting they had limited access to mental health supports.

These statistics don’t paint the full picture of the struggles our nurses have faced: nurses whose children are struggling with sleep issues after being away from their parents for prolonged periods; nurses who have slept at work due to staffing shortages; nurses who have faced financial woes – even losing their homes; and some who are struggling with lingering symptoms from long-haul COVID, unable to work. More recently, we have heard of the many nurses who are struggling with post-traumatic stress as a result of the horrific scenes they have witnessed.

It is past time to help ease the burden and sacrifices that so many have faced on the front lines to keep us all safe and cared for. Thanks and well wishes are appreciated but actions speak louder.

To that end, the Ontario government recently announced that it would extend a temporary pay bump for personal support workers (PSWs) that was first announced and implemented in the fall of 2020. Ontario’s RPNs deeply appreciate the help for their PSW colleagues. As nurses, we know better than most the vital role PSWs play in caring for patients, residents, and clients – and how often their tireless work, care and compassion are overlooked and undervalued. This has made it increasingly difficult to retain PSWs in our health system. Every nurse I know believes that PSWs should be compensated fairly for the work they do.

But so should RPNs.

RPNs are knowledge-based health-care professionals who complete a five-semester college diploma and must be registered to practice with the College of Nurses of Ontario, where they are held to the same standards of practice as an RN. There is no doubt that RPNs are working – and living – through the same physically, mentally and emotionally challenging circumstances as their PSW colleagues. RPNs face many of the same workplace challenges: low and stagnant wages, few opportunities for full-time positions, limited benefits and staffing shortages coupled with strenuous workplace demands, to name just a few.

Still, RPNs have shown up every day since this pandemic began. Not because it is their job – but because they are deeply committed to the patients, residents and clients they care for. It’s time for their dedication and efforts to be similarly recognized and supported.

Let me be clear: We support this pay increase for our PSW colleagues, but leaving RPNs out sends the wrong message and leaves RPNs feeling underappreciated and forgotten.

I know the immense personal sacrifice Ontario’s RPNs have made and the heavy personal toll this pandemic has taken on each and every one of them. I have heard their stories – stories of struggles and losses that they will carry with them through their careers and lives.

From day one of this pandemic, everyone has applauded nurses as front-line heroes. But our nurses need more than just accolades. They need to be fully recognized and valued for their critical role and the care they provide. And that means fair compensation for all RPNs.

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24 Comments
  • M says:

    I appreciate that you mentioned such a heart breaking, disrespectful action Ford did about RPNs.
    Thank you for supporting RPNs’ rights.

  • Trevor says:

    As an RPN I am now questioning retaining my license and moving to another field, or simply adopting a role of a PSW. Simply put, why are we going to work every day to be considered as ‘supervisors’ yet paid the same rate as our PSW colleagues. I do 100% support the pay increase to out hard working PSWs, but this government has create an inequity that will drive RPNs from the field. Pay equity now or risk an ever bigger nursing crisis!

  • Wenxiang says:

    During pandemic, RPN take the high risks as PSW to take care of COVID 19 sick resident. But PSW is the only hero to get the pandemic pay from government. RPN hold the same responsibilities as RN, get the same or less salary as PSW. Why The government, the employers do not treat the front line of RPN equally with RN and PSW.

  • Angel says:

    RPNs have always been a neglected group. The government, community, and even the media are not very familiar with and understand the RPN profession. Especially in long term care, RPNs assume the same role and responsibilities as RNs. But the pay are 108000 miles apart compared with RNs. Ironically, right now PSW salary is as much as RPN. Please take seriously and pay attention to RPNs’ voices. Otherwise, Canada health system will suffer from brain drain of these RPNs.

  • Xiuqing Liu says:

    In long term care,RPN take same responsibility with RN, but they are getting half the salary of what RN are getting. RPN take more responsibility than PSW, the salary is the same as PSW now.It’s so unfair to RPN.

  • Lisa says:

    It is sad to believe that the goverment and the general public do not know the existence of RPN. Since the goverment announced PSW $25 guarantee wages, many RPNs’ salary are lower than PSW, PRN encounter manpower problems.

  • Linda says:

    As aRPN working at Yeehong Centre more than 20 years, my pay is only 26.57/hr. It is so sad we do the exactly same routine day to day jobs as RN, RN got pay of 44.95/hr. The government, the whole society, the employers all forgot us. During the pandemic, PSWs can run away when the nursing homes were in outbreak due to COVID-19, but we cannot. We are registered to CNO, have licenses to control us.

  • Noel Cheung says:

    Can WeRPN organize a rally for all Ontario RPNs to fight for fair wages and the pandemic pay?

    • Chicos says:

      Both hands up!! Let’s show government and employer our concern and attitude.
      It is totally unfair tbh.

      Good article btw.

  • Brooke says:

    Hi Dianne,
    This is all very true and I thank you for having the RPNs voice.
    Is there anything we can do as a community of RPNs to be heard? The government needs to know how much us RPNs are struggling when in most facilities PWSs are now being paid more than us RPNs which how is this fair to us? We have so much more responsibility than they do and we pay yearly fees to the CNO and to you guys at WeRPN to be apart of our voice.
    I am greatful of course that the psws got a pay increase but honestly where is ours?
    I worry that a lot of RPNs will drop to psws to make more and have no responsibility.
    The RNs make double what we are being paid and at my work we literally do the same job. Most of the time I am doing more than the RN. So again how is this fair? Why is there such a pay gap between the RPNs and the RNs? This needs to be brought up to the government.
    Please we want answers and we deserve to be paid what we are supposed to be or we will soon have a shortage of RPNs just like they had a shortage for psws.

  • Robin says:

    Happy for psw but sad that in the year 2021 female dominated profession is being underpaid. After 2 years of working I’ll be at max pay. Rpn 2 years and 30 years make the same.. how is this even legal. I feel bad for Canadians that think our healthcare system is something to be proud of. I’m terrified to grow old and end up is this “Free healthcare system” . Nurses are overworked with workloads that aren’t safe. Running around is no way to provide compassionate care. Finding out about indigenous children graves has shown me our goverment isn’t for the people. Their self serving and only do what’s right when reputation is on the line.

  • Larry minor says:

    And whyIsn’t that happening

  • Katie says:

    Do we have a loud enough voice to be heard in Parliament, as the PSW group has been and now are looking at a permanent increase of $3-$4? It would seem we need to be much, much louder because nothing has happened yet.

    • Alyssa says:

      Extremely disheartening, I feel like we have exhausted all options. We need to do something better to be heard.

  • Jojo says:

    PSW are paid more than RPN in our facility. We are all caregivers. We are discriminated.

  • Akeesha B. RPN says:

    I agree with this entirely!
    I am employed at a hospital as a RPN where I work alongside many interdisciplinary support systems for persons with mental health. RPN’S have the same job requirements as PSW’s IN ADDITION to added responsibilities and legalities. We all work hard and together to provide a safe environment and should be recognized for our efforts and sacrifices. The public depend on us as well as our families.

    We( RPN’S and our families) have truly been forgotten during pandemic.

    Verbal gratitude is still appreciated but we need physical support.

    Great publication!!

  • Nida says:

    Thank you for leading us RPN’s into this, we do need indeed not only the accolades but the right compensations through wage increase.

  • Rhonda Dundon says:

    The diploma RPN is the RN college program which is a different pay grid
    We need to be up to par as our scope is huge compared to the RPN certificate
    Let’s get it together it’s well deserved

  • Elizabeth BUGARIJA says:

    Absolutely, I find this very unfair.

  • Sherry Crozier says:

    As an RPN of 30 years, I have seen a lot of change happen with this profession. When I started we were worki g at the level a PSW does now. Our workload has increased to the point where in some institutions we work at the same level as the RN’s we work with. With no increase in pay to compensate. We make half the pay for the same amount of work. It’s about time the government starts recognizing the RPN’s as a vital role in healthcare. Without the vast majority of us, the health care system would fail. Many of us contemplate leaving and becoming a PSW where we have no licence to uphold and a lot less responsibility. We are not just an assistant to the RN’s, we are our own profession that has been the forgotten profession for as long as I have been a nurse (30 years).

  • Soph RPN says:

    I am a proud RPN currently working in LTC throughout the pandemic. I work tireless hours trying to keep residents safe, provide optimal care and flatten the curve. I’m in the front lines making the ultimate sacrifice putting myself and my family at risk everyday. I do all with a smile on because I am a nurse and I’m hear to help others. I must say that I am thoroughly insulted that the government sent a message that we are not important by ending our “pandemic pay” but continuing to compensate PSW’s for their hard work ONLY. PSWs deserve it 100% but do fo WE. 2 years of hard learning, studying, practicing and challenging competency exams to ensure we will be able to deliver as a Ontario nurse with an optimal level of knowledge skill and judgment, only to now be making a few dollars more then some PSWs who may have done a 6 month program at an adult learning school!!! This is nothing less then an insult. My co-workers and I have questioned demoting ourselves to alleviate the accountability even leaving healthcare all together since we obviously arent appreciated by our Government. What was done wasnt right, we deserve to be compensated equally, we deserve to be shown we are important and appreciated too….our hard work, sacrifice and expertise have been trampled on by the lack of recognition. How can u take away our pandemic pay but continue giving to another discipline?? Think about the message that u delivered because on behalf of my fellow Registered Practical Nurses and myself IT WAS HEARD AND RECEIVED LOUD AND CLEAR. very disappointin. It’s time to make things right, acknowledge the mistake that you’ve made and make things right. Sincerely many RPNS…..

  • Bonnie Brooks says:

    all is so true

    • Jina Gardose says:

      It would be nice if the government appreciate ,recognize and compensate us RPN’s for our hard work and contributions to health care. Thank you in adcance to Ontario Government.

  • Cassandra says:

    I feel very frustrated with the limited pay raises that RPN. Have received year after year in the long term care home I work. I know a lot of long term care homes underpay the RPN which makes them quit and go to the hospital where they work along side and RN that is making $10 an hour more to do the same work. And often those RN look down at RPNs. It’s a sad state of our province. I actually talked my daughter out of going for her RPN. She is currently a PSW. I am so proud of her.

Author

Dianne Martin

Contributor

Dianne Martin, RPN, is the CEO of the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN), the voice of the approximately 50,000 registered practical nurses working in Ontario.

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