February 15, 2018

It’s time for presumptive PTSD legislation

Registered nurses (RN) are constantly exposed to life and death situations and are witness to various other complex patient scenarios. This puts them at risk to develop work-related mental health symptoms such as burnout, compassion fatigue, and PTSD.

The development of PTSD in RNs can be due to one single traumatic event, or the accumulation of stressors over a period of time. Recently, media has paid much attention to the pervasiveness of PTSD in first responders, and some provincial governments have made changes to workers’ compensation legislation, making it easier for these first responders to get necessary supports. However, RNs and other health care providers have been omitted from inclusion in these changes in several instances.

RNs are not immune to the exposure of critical incidents. In this regard, we firmly believe RNs should be included in any changes to the Workplace Health, Safety, & Compensation Act.

We also believe the legislation should be presumptive.

We believe if a worker is exposed to certain types of traumatic events and diagnosed with PTSD, the worker’s compensation board should “presume” the PTSD is caused by the worker’s employment, unless the contrary, is proven. This would eliminate the need for people to “prove” that any one single event specifically caused their PTSD.

The Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) has been leading the charge on researching and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the nursing profession. Thanks in part to MNU’s lobbying efforts, Manitoba’s legislation provides the most comprehensive coverage, in that all workers are covered, regardless of workplace or occupation. PTSD presumptive coverage applies to all workers covered by workers compensation in Manitoba and recognizes that PTSD triggering events can happen in any workplace (WCB Manitoba, 2016). This legislation can be considered the gold standard for the rest of Canada, and is a standard we believe our province should follow.

While prevention of PTSD is still key, I firmly believe these changes to legislation are a necessary first step in providing timely assistance to those who require it.

Click here to read RNU’s submission to the WorkplaceNL review of mental health policy.