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More than 9 in 10 Canadians see superbugs as a threat and expect guidance from nurses: survey

Ottawa, November 14, 2017 — In conjunction with World Antibiotic Awareness Week, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) today released survey data showing that 93 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Nearly 60 per cent consider it to be a major problem for Canada’s health-care system, and almost all (96 per cent) want and expect nurses to provide guidance and education on antibiotic use.

The misuse of antibiotics can lead to superbugs, which are resistant to our safest antibiotics and can cause infections requiring stronger medicines for longer periods of time. Because these medications often bring more severe side effects or require longer hospitalizations, they can negatively affect Canadians’ health and increase health-care costs. Around the world, superbugs are emerging that can no longer be treated by current medications.

With this threat in mind, CNA and other national groups are urging the federal government to take action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). A good starting point is provided by a recent joint report from HealthCareCAN and the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, Putting the Pieces Together: A National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Stewardship.

The federal government needs to invest significant resources to enhance provincial and territorial antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programs. They must also create policies that enable nurses to become antimicrobial stewards who help patients understand and appropriately use antibiotics. One example would be to incorporate nurses who are well-versed in AMS on care teams, an initiative showing promise internationally.

To address the dangers posed by antimicrobial resistance over the next critical five years, CNA strongly recommends that the federal government invest $45 million to scale up provincial and territorial acute care and community-based AMS programs. This investment should include an accountability framework to show how monies invested are used. Further, given the leadership role inherent in nurses’ work, the government could make a one-time investment of $1.5 million to increase AMS competence and capacity among nurses, through nurse-led programs that put this knowledge to use in a way that best meets patients’ needs.

CNA continues to advance antimicrobial stewardship on several fronts including a recently published Choosing Wisely Canada list, developed with Infection Prevention and Control Canada, called Seven Things Nurses and Patients Should Question [PDF, 170.6 KB]. These new nursing recommendations address tests, treatments or procedures that can unnecessarily contribute to the development of infections and the overuse of antibiotics and/or AMR.

To meet the challenges of AMR, health-care professionals and the public — nurses, physicians, pharmacists (and other essential members of the health-care team), patients and caregivers — must all work together.

“Superbugs that are immune to the most powerful antibiotics available are emerging as one of the most challenging health issues of our time,” said CNA president Barb Shellian. “We need all health-care providers ready to face it together. Any delay in these programs puts the patients, families and communities we care for at risk.”

The following national health groups support CNA’s recommendation in its 2018 pre-budget submission to strengthen public health education for health providers.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC)
“Canada’s family doctors recognize the significant risks that antimicrobial resistance poses. CFPC continues to advocate for prudent use of antibiotics as reflected in the Choosing Wisely Canada recommendations. Nurses, family doctors and other members of the Patient’s Medical Home team play a crucial role in antimicrobial stewardship.”

Dr. Guillaume Charbonneau, president of CFPC

“AMR is one of the most pressing public health threats facing Canada and the world today. Sadly, it is also among the most neglected. Canadian leaders in antimicrobial resistance and stewardship have the training and experience to make a difference by slowing the forward march of AMR and saving lives. With the proper support and resources from governments, Canada can be a leader in ensuring that the right antibiotic is used at the right dose at the right time, and only when necessary.”

Paul-Émile Cloutier, president and CEO of HealthCareCAN

Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada (NPAC)
“NPAC represents the voice of nurse practitioners, who are recognized prescribers in Canada. NPAC supports CNA’s recommendations for federal government investment to enhance the accountability, competency and capacity of all nurse practitioners with respect to antimicrobial stewardship.”



Canadians Support or Somewhat Support Nurses Providing Education on Antibiotic Use; Feel “Superbugs” are a Major Problem in Canada [PDF, 1.1 MB]

CNA brief on AMR for the standing committee on health [PDF, 194.7 KB]

The Canadian Nurses Association is the national professional voice representing over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Kevin Ménard
Communications Advisor
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca