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Day in the Life of NPAA & NPAAU President Mary-Elizabeth Cooper

Tell us a little about yourself and your current practice. 

I have been happily married for 27 years to my husband Paul and have one grown daughter, Catherine and son-in-law, Jaydon. I am from Nova Scotia and moved to Alberta in 2005 to take a position as an NP with the Stroke Program at Foothills Hospital. In 2010

I took a position in Supportive Living caring for our Seniors. I carry a panel of my own clients as well as work in collaboration with physicians working on the site. I provide coverage on the days the physicians are not on site. Our team of NPs currently do on call as well for Supportive Living in all of Calgary Zone about 3 times per year. In my free time I enjoy playing golf, hiking, and cooking.

What prompted you to become involved with the NPAA? 

I felt it was important to be involved and give back to the profession as well as help it grow. Having been an NP for a while I know the challenges of what it is like to be the first NP or only NP in a practice area and the challenges that come with that. I also felt that I cannot complain about things not changing if I am not willing to a be a part of advocating for the change required to help the profession move forward.

What does the typical day for the NPAA and NPAAU president look like? 

It varies from day to day. There are usually daily emails that must be answered. Some days there many, other days not so much. The past few months have been busy meeting with our team to set up meetings with members and updating the information on the website. As president I also meet monthly with the board to manage the work of the association. I give a monthly report on the work of the NPAA that is sent out to members.  We have regular meetings with different organizations like Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health, other government departments/organizations. Just recently NPAA held the Annual General Meeting which I chaired and gave the report for the work of NPAA over the past year. I also field questions from members and try to answer them. Other times members will bring an issue to our attention and we work to find a solution or bring it forward to other organizations to help resolve the issues.

Most importantly the president is the voice and representative for the members, and it is important to ensure you are presenting a professional, respectful voice whenever you are meeting with other organizations or in the public. It is a significant responsibility.

What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment over the last year? 

I think one of the biggest accomplishments that NPAA has accomplished over the past year is receiving the recognition of government to give NPs their own bargaining unit which will allow NPs to actual collective bargain and have a say in their compensation. Another great accomplishment is the work with Alberta Health and Alberta health Services in removing legislative barriers to NP practice. This has been a huge step forward in allowing more NPs work to full scope. Overall, the other accomplishment is seeing that more and more organizations are recognizing NPAA as the organization to approach to ask our opinion on processes in health care, how NPs can be part of the solution and recognizing that NPAA are the experts in NP practice.

Why did you feel it was important to create the NPAAU and apply to be the bargaining agent for Alberta NPs? 

It is important to note that this was not my decision but the decision of our members. As the president it is my responsibility to ensure I have all the facts and options and then present it to members. Our board and members after weighing all the options felt that this was an historic opportunity to forge the future of NP practice in Alberta and for the first time allow NPs to have a real say in their own practice and more specifically, compensation. NPs have not had this ability before, and this allows us to. By starting a new union that is by NPs for NPs, we now can decide what the organization will look like, how we conduct ourselves and accomplish what is important to NPs in Alberta. 

What are your goals/visions as President of the NPAA & NPAAU?  

NPAA: Continue advocating for NP practice in Alberta. A new sustainable funding model that allows NPs to work to full scope of practice anywhere in Alberta. Removal of all legislative barriers. Educating other health professional and the public on what NPs do and how they are beneficial as an integral part of the health care team, serving Albertans.

NPAAU: Seeing the union established and our first collective bargaining agreement ratified!

For both NPAA/NPAAU, I hope for a future with all NPs under one organization accomplishing all the work that both the union and association do and to represent NPs in Alberta proudly and be known as professional, hard working organization who represents NPs and health care well while providing the best care possible to the Albertans we serve.

How do you balance all the many hats you wear? 

Some days it can be quite difficult. You must remember which hat you are wearing on any given day and ensure you do not cross any lines. Most of the time it is clear which hat you are wearing and what the purpose is for that meeting or event. Ultimately, I am an NP who has the same concerns other NPs have, but being president allows me to advocate for those concerns at levels I would normally never have access to and hopefully affect real change for the members that I represent.

Anything else you feel it is important for members to know? 

I think it is important for members to know that any one of them can do what I am doing. I never dreamt I would be where I am but with support and encouragement, I have accomplished things I never thought I could. While the “buck stops with me” ultimately at times as the president, it is always a team effort. It has been a privilege representing the members of NPAA and I could not have done it without their support. I urge all NPs to get involved. Our profession will only continue to progress if NPs continue to step up. I have learned so much during my time as president and I know some of it will help me in the future as well. While this job is stressful and difficult at times, it has also been extremely rewarding, and I think some of the best work I have done as an NP. I urge all NPs to get involved in your association/union, you will never regret it.