York, It’s Time to Fix Nursing!
In the School of Nursing at York University, CUPE 3903 has over 100 nurse members who are clinical course directors (CCDs), and as such specifically assist with the delivery of clinical or applied courses in Nursing. This means that CCDs are directly involved in training future nurses. The majority of these members are racialized women who are also frontline staff working 12-hour shifts in a pandemic.
As CCDs, CUPE 3903 members play a crucial role by interpreting COVID-19 regulations and recommendations for students, educating them on the evolving directions from public health units spanning across multiple units in different provinces. As teachers and frontline workers, CCDs have been avid advocates of student and public safety.
In this round of bargaining, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team has several proposals designed to specifically address problems being experienced by CCDs in the School of Nursing. The working conditions of CCDs are crucial to ensuring quality education within the School of Nursing at York University, and implementing a prudent response to the pandemic in healthcare institutions throughout the GTA.
The problems in the School of Nursing are not new. In the 2017-18 bargaining round, there were many 3903 proposals to address ongoing issues in Nursing such as overly large and increasing class sizes, ballooning orientation requirements, unreasonable proof of practice requirements unlike those at any other Ontario School of Nursing, and an overall toxic environment. The employer was not willing to work with the union to solve these issues back then, and arbitrator Hayes ruled that these issues should be moved to a joint committee. The union has been participating fully in this joint committee for the last three years, and while some of those discussions have been helpful, none of the problems has been fixed. The School of Nursing remains overrun by grievances. Discussion in committee can help to identify issues, but addressing them must be done at the bargaining table.
CCDs have waited long enough for meaningful changes: they must happen this round of bargaining. There are concrete steps to address ongoing issues in the School of Nursing, ensure fairness for CCDs, and provide a better clinical experience for Nursing students.
Abolish the unreasonable Proof of Practice requirements.
Every year, York requires that CCDs provide proof of practice, showing that they have worked at least 144 hours in a clinical setting. No other institution in Ontario has such an onerous requirement–not even tenure track clinical instructors represented by YUFA. All practicing nurses have to be licensed by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO). In order to maintain their license, a nurse must have a plan to maintain currency in their areas of speciality and to address gaps in their knowledge, which can be audited by the CNO at any time. If CCDs are deemed to be qualified by a provincial regulatory body like the CNO, then they should be deemed as such for their teaching work at York. York has been unable to clarify the need for this additional proof of practice. This requirement is unreasonable at the best of times, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many CCDs are also working as nurses on the frontlines, they should not be required to jump through hoops to produce arbitrary paperwork that their colleagues in similar roles don’t need to provide. Constant questioning of qualifications are particularly troubling when the majority of CCDs at York are racialized women.
Give CCDs reasonable notice of what courses they will be teaching.
Late and last minute contracts are an issue for all contract faculty, but it is especially problematic for nurses who need to balance their teaching commitments and their work in hospitals, long-term care, and other settings. We ask that CCDs be given at least four weeks notice of their appointments. This will also address problems the School of Nursing was having with CCDs missing orientations because they got last minute contracts that conflicted with their nursing commitments elsewhere.
Cap clinical class sizes.
Clinical courses are not like theoretical courses. Students need support and supervision as they learn the critical skills necessary to care for patients. With the pandemic, the School of Nursing has been increasing class sizes. However, even–and especially!–when clinical courses have an online simulation component, this doesn’t reduce the workload or attention needed to help each student master critical nursing skills. CCDs are often expected to be available to their students around the clock, whether this means responding to questions and concerns that arise in a student’s placement, regularly debriefing, or even visiting students onsite. Capping class sizes will both remove unreasonable pressure on our members and ensure a high quality education for future nurses!
CCDs and CUPE 3903 have identified simple and achievable fixes to problems that have been festering at York for years. After discussing Nursing issues in the joint committee every month for three years, the union was more than ready to move towards solutions in this round of bargaining, tabling proposals in December of 2020. Instead, the employer stalled for several months in providing a response. They countered on March 8, proposing language that would further entrench these arbitrary qualifications in the Collective Agreement. They proposed nothing at all to mitigate the excessive workload of CCDs. Clinical Course Directors deserve better–they need solutions now!