I joined the union the first week I became a civil service nurse. Before that I was a contract nurse here, and I saw how our affiliate president went to Washington to lobby for specialty pay because as a naval hospital we’re under the federal government. She was a little firecracker, four feet tall. Pay went up significantly. I saw how strong a voice we had in the union, and it never occurred to me not to become a member.
As a nurse I feel like I really make a difference. Every year, NICU has a reunion, so after 20 years I’ve had adults tell me I was their nurse when they were babies. Recently, I had the honor of helping save the smallest baby we ever saved. It was 12 ounces, about the weight of a soda can; measuring at 21 weeks, which is not even viable. Our equipment didn’t even fit; we had to monitor blood pressure and vital signs the old-fashioned way, with cuffs. You realize that your eyes and observation is all you need. The baby came out for this reunion, and is doing so well.
I feel like sometimes management and money get in the way of our focus on patients. As a federal hospital, we don’t have to abide by state laws like patient ratios. UNAC/UHCP is our only voice. We have an amazing facility, but we don’t even categorize patients with acuity points anymore, which could prove that we’re understaffed. Our contract expires in September, so I’m trying to recruit new members. Collectively is the only way we can make sure we abide by adequate ratios and give the best nursing care.
I want us to be forward thinking. I want to make things better for nurses. I grew up in what felt like the only Democratic family in North Carolina, and I’ve always been pro-union. My father raised me that way. To me, the union is just another seat at the table for nurses to collectively have a voice. I’m bound and determined to have people see that as a good thing here. My father’s really proud.