Briefs News

Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec launches campaign to fight the eroticization of nursing

According to the OIIQ nurses, the imagery surrounding their profession around Halloween is scary

The Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ) launched a social media campaign last week asking Quebecers to think twice before leaving the house with a stereotypically-suggestive nurse costume this Halloween.

“The profession has evolved, but the stereotypes persist,” stated Luc Mathieu, president of the OIIQ, on the campaign’s webpage. “The choices offered in-store or online are scary! The eroticization of the profession is socially and professionally unacceptable. Nurses practice a scientific profession and their expertise must be better known and valued. It is time for perceptions to change.”

In a video posted to their Instagram page, the OIIQ presents the image of the classic nurse costume as nothing short of scary.

“It’s Halloween, you are looking for a nurse costume,” the video states. After a quick google search, a multitude of sexy nurse costumes pop up on screen, followed by the words: “It’s scary.”

The video then shows nurses in their more conventional scrubs, emphasizing that this attire gives them “a much more credible costume to value the profession.”

“Nurses take care of us, let’s take care of their image.”

The goal for this campaign is to ultimately make people abandon the fetishized nurse costume, and contribute to a more realistic image and perception of the profession.

With over 82,000 members, the OIIQ is the biggest professional order in the health sector of Quebec, representing the interests of nurses around the province.

The campaign will help protect and garner a respectful image of nurses in our province.


Legault Government to invest $1 billion incentive into the nursing industry

In an attempt to attract more nurses to stay in Quebec, new incentives are being created by the provincial government.

On Sept. 23, Premier François Legault promised a $1 billion investment into Quebec’s nursing system, as part of a plan to make up for the province’s nurse shortage.

Quebec is currently in dire need of medical staff, facing a shortage of over 4000 nurses. As part of the incentives promised by the Legault administration, nurses would receive bonuses of up to $18,000.

Despite these promises, the The Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), which represents 76,000 nurses, disagreed with the plan because it failed to improve on the mandatory overtime laws currently in place for Quebec nurses.

The law requires nurses to stay longer than their mandated shifts if deemed necessary. However, the long hours have proven to be difficult for many amid the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen over 600 daily cases throughout most of September.

The plan comes not only as an attempt to prevent current nursing staff from leaving the public health sector, but also to secure the interest of new graduates in joining the field.

In the Sept. 18 press conference introducing the bill, Health Minister Christian Dubé said his mission was to make workers in the medical sector proud of Quebec’s health network, and to help them “want to stay in it, or come back to it.”

That same week, both Legault and Dubé were intentional about highlighting the benefits of the new plan for  both retired nurses returning to the field, as well as nurses choosing to work in the private, rather than the public, sector for economic reasons.

According to Statistics Canada, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour force are still evident in many of Quebec’s industries. The health care and social assistance industry reported 119,500 more jobs than it did compared to August 2020, showing a clear demand for more workers in the healthcare system.

Despite this slight increase, many students considering joining the medical field are still hesitant about establishing a future in Quebec.

Temkhuleko Mthethwa, an international student from Eswatini, is completing her major in biology. Although she hopes to pursue further studies in medicine she does not see a future in Quebec.

Mthethwa believes that language, not finances, is the biggest obstacle for international students looking to join the healthcare workforce in Quebec.

“It’s just so much easier to connect with your patients when you can understand and communicate with them,” said Mathethwa.

“It’s not like I know French — the language barrier is about more than just the finances, it’s about feeling like you belong.”

Canadian students coming to Quebec from other provinces seem to have a similar perspective; 22-year-old Université de Montréal student Braxton Phillips has been completing his masters in neuroscience. He believes the incentives from the government won’t really have a deep impact on who chooses to stay in the province.

“I think the people who would want to stay here in Quebec to pursue medicine would have done so with or without the incentives,” he said.

Phillips thinks that the Legault government would have better results through the creation of more bilingual laws for Quebec’s healthcare system.


Graphics courtesy of Madeline Schmidt


Pandemic stress puts frontline workers’ lives on the line and society’s values on trial

A nurse long-term care nurse shares her experience of working during the pandemic

With a passion to heal people’s pain and a Christian devotion to serving others, Mary Morcos, 32, has always dreamed of becoming a nurse one day. Little had she known about what the COVID-19 pandemic had in store for her.

Morcos pursued her dreams of becoming a nurse after immigrating with her family to Canada from Egypt in 2011. She put her mind to training to become an orderly. She overcame all barriers possible: she learned French so she could use it to study; she lived on a tight budget while also taking care of her family during her two-year-medical training in Montreal.

After being an on-call orderly at several long-term care homes, she landed a permanent job as a CHSLD orderly at a long-term care residence.

On a typical non-pandemic day, Morcos signs in and checks the daily reports written about the elderly residents she takes care of. Her tasks range from measuring blood pressure rates, to administering medications or disinfecting wounds. She also feeds clients who have trouble swallowing and looks after their cleanliness.

Morcos has quickly grown attached to her clients over the months she worked there.

“I’m a warm person. I can’t live without people. Even when some clients are rude to me, I feel so sad when they are gone,” says Morcos.

A storyteller by default, she remembers the most peculiar details of her clients’ lives and stories. The symptoms and medical cases may vary, but one story will stay in her memory forever.

“It’s the same story. It’s about feeling abandoned by your children after all the years and losing relevance to society and the world,” said Morcos.

At those homes, some residents have mild illnesses, such as diabetes or blood pressure; other patients have complicated illnesses made worse by the ravages of time.

“Alzheimer’s patients are the hardest cases. They can harm themselves and blame it on others. I have seen residents walking naked, or wailing, or talking nonsense. I’ve seen all that,” Morcos said.

When the pandemic broke out, Morcos found herself obliged to do more with less. There was inadequate protective equipment at first, which scared many workers off.

She started obsessing over her temperature or how many times she sneezed or coughed each day. She would shower after work and change her clothes, then shower again at home. She has done several COVID-19 tests and has had to wait in anguish for days awaiting the results.

There were days when Morcos could not go back home because she had to spend some nights at the shelter during times of pressure. At home where her husband and daughters confined themselves completely for four months, she totally refrained from hugging or kissing her children.

In a separate room, she could only talk briefly to them and hear their voices.

“Mina, my husband, is a hypochondriac. He was so anxious and could not eat with me or sleep next to me. The news was grim; knowing that I worked at a place with infected people was too much for him to take,” said Morcos.

Her mood has gradually started to go down despite her bubbly sociable personality. Morcos faced bouts of anxiety which explained her psychosomatic symptoms such as stomach ulcers and headaches.

But she had a moral obligation to go on.

“If everyone left, who could be there for them? I could not turn my back on them,” Morcos said.

It is still not clear how CHSLD organizations are assisting health care workers as they weather the tough weeks of the pandemic and stay resilient.

Psychologists are growing more interested in understanding how working on the front lines of COVID-19 could be tampering with the personal lives, relationships and sanity of many doctors, nurses and support workers.

According to Dr. Lucille Lufinni, a psychologist residing in Montreal, monitoring the rates of mood, sleep, and anxiety among healthcare workers during such a crisis is key.

“Depression, anxiety and insomnia are commonly cited symptoms among frontline health care workers, and we need to do more research studies if we really want to help those affected workers,” said Dr. Lufinni.

At work, Morcos sensed that things were growing more morbid.

“I remember hearing many desperate residents saying that they wished the virus would come and kill them. Death was their only savior from the prison they were living in,” said Morcos.

Residents were not allowed to leave their rooms, which led many to fall behind on autonomy and mobility. They were soon back in their diapers, glued to their beds.

Reports also mentioned how sanitary conditions in the long-term care homes were deteriorating: residents were hungry, thirsty and reeking with the smell of their urine and feces amidst dirty rooms with fruit flies buzzing everywhere.

Morcos has been able to deal with the job-related trauma. She could also understand her husband’s abstinence. But she could not wrap her head around seeing her friends distance themselves from her.

“They would plan outings and not tell me. They made excuses so they would not see me. If they were avoiding any contact with anyone, I would understand,” said Morcos, adding “but they were socializing with other people who worked at drug stores. Besides, everyone was spreading the virus.”

Morcos empathized with her clients at the nursing home and shared a similar sense of estrangement and disillusionment in humanity when her friends acted that way towards her. Like her clients, she did not receive the nourishing friend-to-friend support she expected and needed.

“It’s like when a man is loved by his wife, then all of a sudden he gets sick, and she asks for a divorce instead of being there for him. A friend who I cannot count on at a time of need is no longer a friend,” said Morcos.

“Nurses and orderlies are doing what many other people cannot do. This is a stressful job. We are frontline workers, and that means we are putting our own lives on the line,” Morcos said.  

“We are brave citizens, not monsters. We deserve better treatment and more support.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


“Justice for Joyce” protestors march against systemic racism

Thousands march through downtown Montreal, calling for more accountability from the government


Thousands of protestors gathered on Saturday to demand action against systemic racism in Quebec after an Atikamekw woman, Joyce Echaquan, died at Joliette Hospital where she was racially abused by staff.

Mask-wearing demonstrators packed Place Émilie-Gamelin with drums, Indigenous flags and “Justice for Joyce” signs. Many were on bicycles, others pushed baby strollers. Protestors shuffled toward the speakers, all the while attempting to maintain a two-metre distance from each other.

The multilingual demonstration began with a prayer for Joyce. Buffalo Hat Singers were followed with a drum-pounding performance. Chiefs, local politicians, and Indigenous activists took to the stage to denounce the denial of systemic racism in Quebec public institutions and to call for a criminal investigation into the case of Joyce Echaquan’s death.

Cheers and chants of “justice for Joyce” punctuated remarks.

“I have spent the last few days wondering, am I next?” said one Indigenous speaker, fighting back tears. “Who’s next? I’m tired of hearing about intentions. We don’t want intentions!”

Manon Massé, co-leader of Québec solidaire, urged Premier Legault to engage with First Nations communities more respectfully and to put into practice the 142 calls to action listed in the Jacques Viens report, which in 2019 concluded that Indigenous people face systemic discrimination when trying to access public services in Quebec.

On whether political parties are working together in the National Assembly to address the issue of systemic racism, Massé told The Concordian that “The CAQ and the PQ don’t recognize that there is systemic racism [in] Quebec, [in] our institutions,” but she insisted that she is willing to work with other parties to advance change.

Jessica Quijano, who works at the Iskweu project and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal said that the Indigenous community needs its own health centre.

“First Nations people often don’t seek medical attention because of systemic racism.”

However, she saw positives in the protest turnout.

“I think it’s hopeful to have this many people, but I always say that protests are dress rehearsals for what’s really to come.”

Jennifer Maccarone, the Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Westmount–Saint Louis, had strong words for Premier Legault.

“I think he’s completely disconnected from the community he represents.”

She accused the CAQ of doing little to address racism in the province and acting without transparency.

“Joyce deserved nothing less than proper health care and respect,” she told The Concordian.

“You have to change the way people think,” Gregory Kelley told The Concordian, the Liberal MNA for Jacques-Cartier. He called for Quebec’s educational curriculum “to have more Indigenous content so people understand better who the Indigenous peoples of Quebec are and what are the challenges they face.”

The demonstrators observed a moment of silence for Joyce, then marched from Émilie-Gamelin toward René-Lévesque Boulevard and stopped at the Quartier des Spectacles. One nurse and one orderly have been fired from the Joliette Hospital, and three investigations have been launched. A GoFundMe page has been created for the family, and the Echaquan family is filing a lawsuit against the hospital.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Bongiorno

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