Before I stood for president of OFPN, I spent time learning about the history of OFPN. What I heard was that OFPN was created during a time when much of the media attention, and the political, governmental, and organizations concerned with health care were focused on hospital care and associated outcomes. Nurses in family practice often worked in isolation, and had little access to educational opportunities. OFPN was formed to give those nurses a chance to network with others across the province and to give them access to relevant, evidence-based educational sessions. This is the legacy that those strong RNs gave to our membership and to this day, networking and educational opportunities continue to be one of OFPNs overall goals.
Fast forward to 2016. The Ontario government, with its proposed Patients First legislation, has positioned Primary Care as the anchor of the health care system. This legislation will land the anchor right into the working hands and minds of the Primary Care teams in Ontario. The RNAO has had significant input into this shift in their ECCO Report (RNAO, 2014) that was released a few years ago. Indeed, Health Minister Hoskins indicated that the Ministry drew heavily from ECCO when drafting this legislation. Primary Care nurses will continue working in Primary Care funding models (Virani, 2012), which are to be held more accountable in the years to come as the models and frameworks that will anchor Ontario’s health care system. Nurses who work in Primary Care in Ontario can be at the forefront of ensuring accountability for our patients, if we are seen as knowledge leaders who hold considerable intellectual capital. A change in our organization’s name, to include the concept of Primary Care, will increase our visibility as nurses who are working within Primary Care models. A name change will more accurately account for more of the nursing roles that our members engage in, of which nursing in Family Practice is one of many.
As the system begins this shift, it is OFPN Executives’ belief that nurses working in Primary Care need to be recognized as nurses who provided specialized generalist care (Oandasan, 2010). While nursing roles in Primary Care are poorly understood by physicians, some NPs and the public (Virani, 2012), we must combat our current lack of visibility (Virani, 2012) as knowledge leaders, with a name that will receive recognition and aligns with the current and future vision of health care in Ontario. Our organization can capitalize on this health care system shift by aligning our name with the current political, legislative and public discourse as it relates to Primary Care. A name change that includes the words “Primary Care” will allow us to be easily recognizable as experts in our field who hold considerable intellectual capital as it relates to Primary Care (CNA, 2014). When we are seen as knowledge leaders in Primary Care, whose name aligns with current discourse, we can then begin to effectively advocate for our SATTs (Seats At The Tables of Primary Care decision making), our need for equitable compensation, role articulation and optimization, and also, our visibility within the local, and provincial health care organizations and funding models. A name change that includes “Primary Care”, will allow us to advocate more effectively and with greater understanding on the part of decisions makers, as Primary Care is now common vernacular within the health care systems we work in, and the public we serve.
Further, as the anchor shifts to Primary Care, our organization (indeed Primary Care in general) needs to be able to effectively recruit, retain and advocate for all of the 4000 primary care nurses in Ontario. As leaders in Primary Care we must validate, support and mentor new nurses and nursing students in their choice of Primary Care Nursing as a valued and fulfilling nursing career choice. The OFPN Executive believes a change in name will support these ends.
With the increase in demand in and on Primary Care with the health care shift related to the Patients First legislation, we urge you to hold space in your mind and heart for the information shared here. We encourage you to remember our history, and also consider our future in the context of the shift in health care. We understand that, for some, making the decision to change our name might be difficult. We understand that, for some, it may be easy. The OFPN Executive invites your input, feedback, questions or comments. We look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your time and consideration of this backgrounder.
With warm thanks,
Sheena Howard, RN, BScN, MA(c)References