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History is Important: The Evolution of NANB

As many readers know, NANB was originally called the Graduate Association of New Brunswick and was formed in 1916 during World War I. A small group of nurses in the province lobbied the government of the time to develop legislation that would mandate specific standards for nursing practice and nursing education. That legislation was updated to reflect changes in healthcare and in nursing in 1940, 1984, and 2002 (introduction of nurse practitioners).

While legislation pertaining to nursing in NB has remained regulatory in mandate directive, the roles enacted by the Association fluctuated over many decades, and in many ways were influenced because nursing was and still remains largely composed of women. The societal transformations experienced from 1960 -1980 were significant contributors to many role changes for NANB.

As women in general society demanded better working conditions, improved wages, and recognition of women’s contribution to the workforce – nurses also participated in these demands. The initial NB nursing union was developed within the NANB. This was perhaps the beginning of a shift away from the legislated mandate of public protection, to a mandate that largely focused on promoting and protecting nurse members.

As time passed, the nursing union evolved into an organization that played a much larger role beyond labour negotiations, and in NB has become a major player in advocacy for nurses and the nursing profession. NANB continued to also contribute to advocacy and lobbying efforts on behalf of NB nurses.

In the early 1980s, the provincial government in some jurisdictions began to question the dual role played by nursing associations, due to an observed conflict in these organizations being legislated to protect the public while advocating and lobbying on behalf of nurse members. The Ontario government was the first to mandate a separation of nursing association and nursing regulator functions. Since that decision, all jurisdictions have commenced an evolution of separating nursing associations and nursing regulators. New Brunswick is one of the last provinces to move towards a separation of roles.

In 2018, NANB began a process of internal work and external consultation which began the evolution of separation. In 2019, the NANB Board of Directors committed to a refocus on the original legislated mandate of regulation, while recognizing the importance of a nursing association. To that end, the NANB Board designated funding that will see a new nursing association formed within New Brunswick should there be interest by nurse members. 

In 2021, NANB representatives met with the NB Professional Nurses Group to discuss the separation of organizations and a potential path forward. This initial meeting coincides with the rebranding work currently underway at NANB. The purpose of this work is to provide clarity to the public and to registered nurses on the role and service of NANB, as well as to create improved accessibility of services for the public. Further discussions and negotiations are planned for meetings with the NB Nursing Professional Group. As details become available further communication will be shared with nurses and the public.

NANB has also met with the government to request that work begins to modernize the Nurses Act. This is important work that if successful will allow much-enhanced flexibility for responding to nursing, public and health system needs, and remove many barriers for NB nurses.

Members with additional questions and comments should email nanb@nanb.nb.ca