I’m a very shy person. But when it comes to unfairness, I have to say something. One morning in early 2002 I needed my patient to be picked up for surgery, so I called the floor nurse. She started crying and said, “I just can’t do it anymore.” She had two admissions and six patients already, with no one to help because they were all too busy. It was like that every night. In OR we had good ratios, but I said, “What can I do for these floor nurses who need help?” That pushed me to be a part of starting our union.
It was not easy to get our first contract. I remember picketing in front of the hospital when suddenly the sprinklers came on. We knew the sprinkler hours and they had never gone off at that hour before. But we just laughed, because we knew management didn’t want us out there making them look bad to the public. And meanwhile, people driving by were honking their support.
It was a good fight. Negotiations got tough, but it was educational and inspiring. We were there together through the ups and downs. And with the help of the other UNAC/UHCP affiliates and the State Office, we won what we were asking for: fair working conditions and being paid like other hospitals. We were elated. It may be a busy place, with a lot of patients, but the most satisfying thing is that the nurse-to-patient ratio has improved. And it’s all because we are a union. We’re just happy we made it and now we’re celebrating our tenth year.
I was the first LRNA Vice President, but I declined re-election. Now I’m in the background. Though if my staff has any questions for the union they still approach me. And I still feel if something is wrong and we can do better, I have to speak up. Now that we are a union, we can voice our concerns. We’re not scared. We know we’ll be heard. And the quality of patient care will be better, because the nurses are happy.