The federal government has appointed a new national chief nursing officer, reinstating a position that aims to bring more perspectives from nurses to federal health-care policy discussions and decision-making.
Leigh Chapman has been named to the position, a 20-year nursing veteran who has worked in leadership positions in critical care, home and community care, harm reduction and has held positions in academia, research, regulation, professional practice and administration.
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This is the first time anyone has held the job of national chief nursing officer (CNO) since 2012, when the position was quietly eliminated “at a time when the government was realigning resources across priorities,” according to a federal government news release issued today.
“However, in this current environment, the CNO is viewed as an important role and has been resourced accordingly,” the release says.
Chapman’s appointment comes as the country’s health-care system is experiencing unprecedented pressures, including a nationwide shortage of nurses and other health workers. These staffing shortages have been cited by health-care leaders across the country as a major factor in the temporary closures of dozens of emergency departments and reductions of health services in every province and territory over the last few months. It is a situation many front-line doctors, nurses and stakeholders are calling a “crisis.”
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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says improving the health system includes addressing the critical shortages in health-care staffing across the country. Chapman will play a “crucial role in stabilizing the nursing workforce by ensuring the perspective of nurses is included at the national level, helping to shape the overall health policy work of Health Canada,” Duclos said in a statement.
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“Reinstating the federal CNO recognizes the central role nurses continue to play in health care in Canada through their many contributions and expertise.”
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As Canada’s CNO, Chapman will provide strategic advice from a nursing perspective to Health Canada on priority policy and program areas, Duclos said, including health workforce planning, long-term care, home care, palliative care, mental health, alcohol and drug use, as well as input on models of care and scope of practice and competencies.
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She will also play a “convening role” with provincial and territorial governments as well as with federal health and nursing stakeholders, regulatory bodies/colleges and educators on key nursing issues. She will represent the federal government at public forums, both within and outside of Canada, the government release states.
Before her appointment, Chapman was working as the director of clinical services with Inner City Health Associates in Toronto, overseeing a nursing program that cares for people experiencing homelessness who were affected by COVID-19 in Toronto.
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