The health and safety of our members and their patients is our top priority. The situation regarding COVID-19 in our province continues to evolve. Please refer to this page often for the latest updates and information. Scroll down to see frequently asked questions and answers.
It is more important than ever to decompress and feel the support of those around you. We’ve created a web page with resources to help you take a little breathing space from the rigors of the job during this time of heightened stress, workload and anxiety. Visit Breathing Space.
- Annual Leave Guiding Principles – May 15
- RNU Signs Joint Statement on PPE – May 7
- Watch Debbie’s Facebook Live Q&A – April 22
- Decontamination of N95 Respirators – April 19
- Watch Debbie’s Facebook Live Q&A – April 15
- FAQ on Essential Worker Child Care Benefit – April 14
- CFNU Position Statement: Provision and Laundering of Uniforms – April 8
- Social Media Use & Privacy During COVID-19 – April 6
- Letter to Premier, Minister Haggie & Dr. Fitzgerald: Protect Health Care Workers – April 3
- Member Update: Good Neighbour Agreement – March 30
- Good Neighbour Agreement – March 30
- Member Update: Trust RNs Expertise & Judgement – March 27
- Essential Worker Child Care Service Application Form – March 25
- Letter to Minister Haggie: NPs & Virtual Care Services – March 25
- CFNU Research Summary on COVID-19 – March 24
- Letter to Minister Haggie: Empower & Protect Health Care Workers – March 25
- News Release: Enact COVID-19 Safety Measures – March 24
- Member Update: #StrongTogether – March 24
- Member Update: PPE, Child Care & More – March 19
- Letter to Dr. Fitzgerald re: Downgrading of N95 Use in Swabbing – March 19
- Letter to Premier: Emergency Child Care Measures – March 18
- Joint Statement: Keeping Health Care Workers Safe – March 18
- Member Update: March 17
- President’s Message – March 12
JOINT Position statement on COVId-19
Since the beginning of COVID-19, RNU has been working hard to keep our members safe. This includes ensuring access to the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). RNU took the lead in developing a joint statement on PPE which has been signed by RNU, the Provincial Government, Regional Health Authorities (RHAs), and health care unions. It identifies PPE standards for health care workers and provides clarity on the appropriate use of PPE. Most importantly, it recognizes the value of clinical and professional judgement of health care workers. Read the full statement. Read the full Joint Statement.
RNU developed a Visual Guide to help you complete your point-of-care risk assessment and determine the PPE you require. This guide is based on our interpretation.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (LAST UPDATE: May 11, 11:30 a.M.)
I have to provide care to a patient with suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19. How do I decide what PPE I need?
Become familiar with the minimum PPE precautions (contact and droplet precautions) when dealing with COVID-19.
Do a point-of-care risk assessment (assess the patient, the task, and the environment).
Determine the need for additional PPE.
If your assessment determines a surgical mask with face shield is sufficient, don this PPE and proceed with your nursing care.
If your assessment determines that an N95 or equivalent should be used, speak to your manager or designate and inform them you will be using an N95.
If your manager unreasonably denies you this PPE and directs you to treat the patient without an N95, you have the option to refuse unsafe work under the Occupational Health & Safety Act.
What is a Point-of-Care Risk Assessment (PCRA)?
A PCRA is used prior to any interaction with any patient. It involves assessing the patient, the task, and the environment prior to each patient interaction. This assessment helps you decide what, if any, PPE you need to wear to protect and to prevent the transmission of germs.
Examples of using the PCRA to determine the appropriate PPE for interacting with a suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patient:
Patient: You assess that the suspected COVID-19 patient is coughing and sneezing excessively with copious amounts of respiratory secretions. You have to provide direct or prolonged care so you consider replacing your surgical mask with an N95 respirator.
Task: You assess that AGMPs will be performed, are frequently performed, or are probable due to the patient’s unstable or deteriorating condition. You don an N95 respirator.
Environment: You assess that the care environment is unpredictable or is an AGMP ‘hotspot’ or designated COVID-19 unit. You don a N95 respirator.
What are the PPE requirements when caring for suspected, presumed, or confirmed COVID-19 cases?
Health care unions, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and regional health authorities agreed to the following joint statement outlining PPE standards for front-line health care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador caring for suspected, presumed, or confirmed COVID-19 patients: Read the joint statement here.
Does the joint statement on PPE mean that an N95 respirator should be used for any contact with a suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19 positive patient?
This agreement allows health care workers to conduct a point of care risk assessment (PCRA) using their professional and clinical judgement to determine the appropriate level of PPE they need to care for the patient.
If you determine through your PCRA that you require a fitted respirator (N95 equivalent or better), the joint statement states that you will not be unreasonably denied this PPE by your employer. If you are unreasonably denied access to the appropriate PPE and are expected to perform care without it, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. For more information see the question on the procedure for refusing unsafe work.
What is an aerosol generating medical procedure (AGMP)?
AGMPs induce the production of aerosol particles of various sizes. AGMPs include but are not limited to: intubation and related procedures (e.g. manual ventilation, open endotracheal suctioning), cardio pulmonary resuscitation, bronchoscopy, sputum induction, nebulized therapy, non-invasive ventilation (e.g. BiPAP), open respiratory/airway suctioning, high frequency oscillatory ventilation, tracheostomy care, nebulized therapy/aerosolized medication administration, high flow heated oxygen therapy devices (ex. ARVO, optiflow) and autopsy.
What’s the procedure for refusing unsafe work?
- Tell your manager you are refusing unsafe work.
- Provide your safety concerns and reasons for the refusal.
- Contact your workplace Occupational Health and Safety representative immediately. (Your manager can help identify your rep. You may also find information on the employer intranet or OH&S bulletin board).
- Follow-up with your OH&S representative in writing (email is fine).
- Management will then investigate.
- If your employer fails to provide an N95 respirator, the next step is to report it to the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the provincial government (the OH&S Committee should be able to provide details on making this contact). Also, contact RNU Provincial Office. During after hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- While the matter is being investigated by the Occupational Health and Safety Division, your employer may assign you other duties.
What is the union’s position on decontamination of N95 respirators?
I’m worried about the new one mask per day directive that just came out.
What can we do about burnout on busy units and giving nurses a break while we can?
I am required to self-isolate even though I am asymptomatic. What leave am I entitled to?
You are entitled to a maximum of 75 hours special paid leave. There is no limit on the number of times you can access the special paid leave. You will receive up to 75 hours of special paid leave each time you are required to self-isolate.
Why do I have to use sick leave if I just have a mild cold?
Do I have to use sick leave if I acquire COVID-19 at work?
If you believe you acquired COVID-19 through exposure in your workplace you should file a WorkplaceNL claim. If your claim is approved you will be covered under WorkplaceNL benefits and time lost will not be taken from your own sick leave.
Do I have to use sick leave if I acquire COVID-19 outside of work?
Permanent and temporary employees:
You are required to use sick leave (or other accumulated leave) if you acquire COVID-19 outside of the workplace. Sick leave is a collective agreement provision in place to cover illness and will apply as it normally would if you were to become sick from other causes.
You will receive up to 75 hours of special paid leave for use when you are required to self-isolate or have become ill with COVID-19. The actual hours of leave granted will be determined by your average time worked during the last 6 pay periods.
I’m followed on an attendance management program and am worried about missing work due to minor cold symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.
Employers have assured RNU that members on attendance management will not be subject to the usual requirements of the program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have been given conflicting direction about self isolation or possible exposure.
We understand that conflicting advice can contribute to frustration and anxiety.
In the case of conflicting recommendations, we advise that you follow the direction provided by your employer’s Occupational Health and Safety department. These are the experts on contact tracing, what to do in the case of potential exposure, and COVID-19 in general. They are knowledgeable of the latest recommendations from the Department of Health and are able to provide you with the most current direction in this rapidly evolving pandemic.
What is RNU’s position on having my employer provide scrubs so I’m not contaminating my clothes and taking germs home?
I do not have child care and am scheduled to report to work. What options do I have?
Child care in a home environment with family members, or trusted friends or neighbours. This is the preferred arrangement during the pandemic because of public health recommendations. Families using this option will be reimbursed up to $200.00 per child/per week, upon submission of invoices and receipts.
If you are unable to arrange child care in a home environment as noted above, the following options are available at no cost:
Child care for school aged children in a school (ages 5 – 13).
Child care for pre-school aged children in a regulated child care centre or family care home.
Please complete the application form located here if your require child care.
My partner works from home which makes us ineligible for in home child care. This is not fair.
RNU has voiced the concerns of our members who were ineligible for at home child care because they have partners working from home. We have since been assured by the Minister of Education that essential health care workers will be approved for at home child care despite this criteria.
If you encounter any issues, please reach out to your Labour Relations Officer or email us at email@example.com so that we can provide further assistance.
Do RNs get a high risk benefit for working on the frontline of COVID-19?
What extra precautions should I take for COVID-19 if I am immunocompromised?
You should consult your primary care provider and gather any necessary documentation for medical accommodations. Keep your manager and your employer’s Occupational Health and safety department informed.
If you encounter any issues, please reach out to your Labour Relations Officer so they can assist you.
What extra precautions should I take for COVID-19 if I am pregnant?
RNU shares the position of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions which can be read in full here.
There isn’t enough evidence to predict whether COVID-19 will have an impact on pregnant health care workers, or whether they are at greater risk of infection and severe morbidity, but with respect to pregnant workers employers should err on the side of compassion, and focus on alleviating the anxiety of workers and any potential health risks to the mother and her fetus.
We recommend that pregnant members who are concerned about their health – especially those with co-morbidities – seek an accommodation from their employer if they are asked to care for presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients in COVID-19 ‘hot zones’ (such as intensive care units, emergency rooms, operating rooms, post-anaesthetic care units, negative pressure rooms, single-patient rooms used to isolate patients in absence of negative pressure rooms, and trauma centres).
If physical changes due to pregnancy make it difficult to wear the required personal protective equipment in a safe manner, you should not be providing care for COVID-19 suspected or confirmed patients. Instead, seek an accommodation from your employer.
If you are seeking an accommodation due to pregnancy and encounter any issues, please reach out to your Labour Relations Officer so that they can support you.
I traveled outside the province but within Canada in the last fourteen days. Should I still go to work?
Anyone arriving to the province from outside Newfoundland and Labrador on or after March 20, 2020 is required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. Notify your manager as soon as possible and follow direction provided by your employer.
I traveled outside the country in the last fourteen days. Should I still go to work?
If you returned from international travel to Canada before 7:00 p.m. on March 14, 2020, you can return to work and are expected to self-monitor. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should self-isolate and call 811 for direction.
If you returned to Canada after 7:00 p.m. on March 14, 2020, you must self-isolate for 14 days.
I recently traveled and have to self-isolate. How will I be compensated? What leave will I use?
- Employees will be paid special paid leave for any regular work days missed.
- In keeping with federal government direction, future personal travel plans should be made with careful consideration given the health risks associated with travel outside Canada.
- Employees who already have leave approved and choose to travel internationally on or after March 15, 2020, will be required to self-isolate upon return to Newfoundland and Labrador, however these employees will not be paid special paid leave for any regular work days missed.
- In all situations above, employees who are required by their employer to work from home will be expected to do so and will receive regular pay.
I work casual and have to self-isolate. How will I be compensated?
As per the Good Neighbour Agreement (GNA), “casual employees, who are asymptomatic but required to self-isolate and/or exhibit acute respiratory illness-like symptoms and are unable to report to work, will be placed on special leave with pay. Pay will based on an the averaging of the hours worked over the last six (6) pay periods up to a combined maximum of seventy-five (75) hours.”
To read the full GNA please click Good Neighbour Agreement.
What can I do to feel more prepared for COVID-19 in my workplace?
We encourage you to discuss workplace safety with your employer/manager and make certain that appropriate PPE, protocols and preventative measures are in place. Make sure your fit-testing is up to date and use contact, droplet and airborne precautions, including gloves, gowns and face shields.
- Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
- Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
- Government of Canada
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)