Message from the CEO

I have the great honour of being SWITCH BC’s first CEO. As with any first, there is a lot of uncertainty as well as endless potential. What made SWITCH BC so appealing to me was knowing healthcare unions, employers and physicians were working together to support positive change.

Healthcare is a complex sector and creating positive change requires support from leaders and from the people who do the actual work. There are excellent workplace health, safe and wellbeing programs and initiatives already underway across B.C., and we need to ensure they are available province wide. And while we’ve done some amazing work in B.C. to protect health care workers, there are still opportunities to improve.  That’s where SWITCH BC and its collaborative make-up can further support positive change. By having all key partners agreeing on the best solutions, together, we can then successfully introduce or expand existing programs to everyone in the province, creating equity, ensuring everyone has access to the same high-quality services.

Prior to SWITCH BC, I was leading Island Health’s pandemic response. I had a chance to see how we navigated a global pandemic and rolled out a vaccine in a very short period of time. We have so much to be proud of in this province. We have a public that came together to support the more vulnerable in our communities, and we now have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. We managed, and continue to manage, the demands of our health system through all the waves of the pandemic, while still providing vital services and support to people who need them.
Before the pandemic, staffing in healthcare was already a challenge in many places. We knew the system was fragile then. Health care staff were leaving in large numbers, as the baby boomers, the largest generation in history, started to reach retirement age. And the generations coming into the workforce aren’t prepared to work extraordinary hours, they value self-care and balance in a way that the baby boomers didn’t.

Then the pandemic hit, and instead of having those needs met, we pushed the boundaries even further.

Research in January 2022 found 66% of health care workers reported feeling burnt out and 40% reported that they were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To make matters worse, we also know that physicians and nurses are the least likely to seek help for mental health issues.

There is no single solution to supporting the health, safety and wellbeing of people working in healthcare, but the one thing we absolutely must do is find ways to restore the very reason people choose healthcare careers. We have to restore humanity in healthcare – that person-to-person connection. It’s that human connection, the privilege of being with someone when they are at their most vulnerable and bringing them comfort and compassion that is at the heart of healthcare.

It is time to switch how we think about resilience. We need to support people working in healthcare with resilient and psychologically safe workplaces, not tell them to do more yoga. We want to work together to define what it means to have workplaces that allow us to thrive and to support those who are struggling.   We will do this together. We will do this by listening to you, hearing from people in healthcare and expanding or implementing programs and services that you feel will improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone in the sector.

Today is a great place to start.  Let’s recognize there is good work underway, and acknowledge more work is needed. Let’s celebrate health care teams who are doing extraordinary work under the most demanding circumstances. Let’s celebrate healthcare as noble work. The best kind of work because it’s people helping people.

To everyone working in healthcare, thank you! We are putting you at the heart of all our efforts to care for the people who care for us.

Victoria Schmid 
SWITCH BC Chief Executive Officer