Alberta nurses advocate for equal worker’s compensation coverage

Union calls for presumptive coverage for psychological injuries

Alberta nurses advocate for equal worker’s compensation coverage

In a continued effort to address disparities in workplace health and safety coverage, Alberta nurses are urging the provincial government to include them in the presumptive coverage for psychological injuries, a benefit currently extended to other first responders. This coverage allows for easier access to Workers’ Compensation benefits for psychological trauma experienced on the job, without the need to prove a direct causal link between their employment and their psychological injuries.

"Through the nature of their work, nurses are routinely exposed to traumatic events in the workplace," stated Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), last year. She emphasized that it is unjust for nurses to "be forced to wait for – or be denied – access to Workers’ Compensation benefits after experiencing traumatic events while on the job."

Cameron Westhead, UNA's second vice-president, further argued for the inclusion of nurses with other first responders in receiving this presumptive coverage. "Those occupations, the government rightly said in a recent news release, ‘experience post-traumatic stress injuries at significantly higher rates than the general population.' So do nurses, who are also first responders," Westhead pointed out.

The push for equitable treatment comes in the backdrop of recent governmental acknowledgments and actions highlighting the mental health challenges faced by first responders. On May 9, Alberta Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones highlighted a $1.5 million allocation in grants aimed at enhancing treatment and prevention programs for post-traumatic stress injuries among first responders. "First responders and emergency workers have Albertans’ backs, and Alberta’s government is committed to supporting their mental health needs," Jones stated.

Despite these proclamations and the celebration of nurses during National Nurses Week, as acknowledged by Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, nurses in Alberta still face significant hurdles. They must prove the connection between their psychological injuries and workplace events to receive coverage under Workers’ Compensation, a requirement not demanded of other first responder professions.

Highlighting a potential gender disparity, Westhead notes, "the only obvious difference is that the professions that receive presumptive coverage are dominated by men, while in the nursing profession a majority of practitioners are women. This is discriminatory and unfair."

Westhead reiterated the commitment of UNA to this cause: "UNA has been pushing for front-line nurses to be included in presumptive coverage for years. We won’t rest until this discriminatory omission is eliminated."

This ongoing battle underscores the critical need for equitable treatment in workers' compensation laws, ensuring all first responders, regardless of their specific profession or gender, receive the support they need in the wake of workplace-induced trauma.