St. Boniface wellness efforts ‘slap in the face’: nurses

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IN a move that’s being widely mocked by front-line nurses, St. Boniface Hospital distributed “wellness cards” depicting a calm-down breathing technique.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/12/2021 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IN a move that’s being widely mocked by front-line nurses, St. Boniface Hospital distributed “wellness cards” depicting a calm-down breathing technique.

Hospital staff were given laminated cards to remind them of mindful deep breathing amid a fourth-wave pandemic response that continues to raise concerns about serious staff shortages and lack of hospital capacity.

“It’s truly insulting and surprising,” said one St. Boniface nurse.

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On the front of the card, which is designed to be attached to the employee’s identification-badge lanyard, is a figure-eight illustration meant for the user to trace with their finger as they inhale and exhale. The back of the card lists contact information for in-hospital employee wellness resources. The cards were paid for via private donations.

The breathing technique, also known as the lazy 8 method, is an established anti-anxiety exercise also used in mindfulness meditation.

The nurse said she didn’t want to minimize the therapeutic benefits of deep breathing, but she said the consensus among her co-workers was that the cards were a bit of a joke, especially considering how hard staff have been working throughout the pandemic.

“My initial reaction was just that it felt insulting and condescending. It just didn’t seem appropriate,” she said.

“It felt like a slap in the face, like, ‘Here’s these little cards to make you feel better.’ Really, what we need is better staffing.”

The Free Press is granting anonymity to the nurses because they fear for their jobs by speaking publicly.

The cards are part of the hospital’s wellness initiative. St. Boniface Hospital used an undisclosed amount of money from the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation to print enough cards for all hospital employees. Managers were instructed to hand out the cards starting Nov. 4, but it is unclear how many did so or how widely the cards were distributed. Asked about the cards Monday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority stated they were St. Boniface Hospital’s project.

“Supporting our employees’ health and well-being, along with being prepared to support those who trust in us is a vital component to building a culture of wellness among our community. It also aligns with one of the Hospital’s strategic priorities, which is to focus on our people,” Nicole Aminot, the hospital’s interim president and CEO, stated in a written response.

The nurses union and the opposition NDP both criticized the laminated cards as an example of leaders not listening to nurses’ needs.

Plenty of nurses brought up the cards and a recent wellness memo to their union, Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said, stating the effort “continues to miss the mark.”

“Like the campaign promising spa days and cross-country skiing from years ago, this recent launch of wellness tools is just too far off the mark of what nurses actually need. If the employer truly wishes to focus on their people, they will first need to know what the needs of their people are,” Jackson stated.

Uzoma Asagwara, NDP health critic, said the cards are a waste of time and money.

“If the government provided the investments and resources needed to retain the nurses that we still have… and to recruit additional nurses, then the hospital wouldn’t have to make these empty gestures that end up insulting nurses,” Asagwara said.

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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Updated on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 6:29 AM CST: Minor changes to punctuation

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