St. John’s – The Registered Nurses’ Union (RNU) is concerned about a decision by Eastern Health to replace registered nurses (RNs) with licensed practical nurses (LPNs) at the palliative care unit at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre.

Currently, the palliative care unit is staffed by two RNs and one LPN on the day shift for 10 patients. The employer plans to change the staffing to one RN and two LPNs effective April 1. RNs working on the unit are concerned about the impact this staffing change will have on patient care and family support.

“RNs are the only nursing providers who can independently provide care for the full range of patient conditions, including those who are unstable and unpredictable,” says RNU President Debbie Forward. “One RN will simply not be able to provide the higher level care that is needed on this unit. We believe this staffing change will negatively impact patients and families during a critical and emotional time.”

Significant research presented through RNU’s “More Full-Time RNs Can Save A Lot” campaign links lower RN staffing to increased health costs and unfavourable patient experiences and outcomes. Research on safe RN staffing can be viewed at

“LPNs are skilled professionals, but they have basic nursing knowledge and a narrower scope of practice than RNs. When a LPN replaces a RN on this unit, the advanced knowledge the RN brings to patients and families in palliative care will be lost,” says Forward.

This staffing change comes on the heels of comments by the Deputy Minister of Health and Community Services that duties being performed by RNs could be shifted to LPNs.

“We know the Department of Health and Community Services and employers are focused on reducing the health budget, but this is putting cost savings ahead of the needs of patients and families. Given the Deputy Minister’s comments in December, I have to question if this replacement is the start of what’s to come,” adds Forward.

In addition to staffing changes in the palliative care unit, the employer has also cut three LPN positions on rehabilitation units at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre. Eliminating these positions is increasing the workload for all nursing providers and raising concerns about the ability to deliver quality patient care.

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Media Contact:

Karyn Whelan, Registered Nurses’ Union
Phone: 753.9961 EXT 219, 691-0889