How did you decide to become a nurse?
As a child growing up I wanted to be a famous fashion designer. When I came to the US I was creating a name for myself, participating in shows in my city of Nottingham. I had also secured a number of commissions for items I had designed. I look back at that time and smile as I have fond memories of defying my mother’s suggestions to pursue a career in nursing.
My mum was part of the historic Windrush generation. She left the warm, sunny climate of Jamaica to pursue a career in nursing in England at the time when nurses were in short supply. I had other ideas for myself! Funny how life turns out. I don’t see myself in any other profession other than as a cardiac cath lab nurse, a super-gratifying specialty. Who knows? Maybe when I retire I’ll design nicer hospital attire for our patients.
Nurse and organizer. How did you get there?
I became involved in organized labor by accident. I believe as a woman of color you’re continually and forever fighting the battle of defense from injustice. You’re always demanding recognition.
I remember being asked to represent nurses at the Weiler Campus. I did not think I had the skill set but was assured by my colleagues and then President/Chairperson Pat D’Lillo, RN, and our rep at the time, Mike Hertz, RN,that I absolutely had the skill set. They said that I had a particular way about me. Besides, all I would be doing was handing out flyers. Any nurse can do that!
That’s how I became involved: I knew how to stand up for myself. I figured I had nothing to lose, put my best foot forward, and the rest is my story.
How many hats do you wear?
First and foremost, I am an RN working full time in the cardiac cath lab at the Weiler Campus of Montefiore Medical Center. But I wear a number of hats in our union of 43,000 registered nurses. I am the chairperson of the bargaining unit at Weiler, where I assist in protecting the sanctity of our contract and the rights of nurses and patients. I also serve on the board of directors as second vice president. In this role I assist the entire team at NYSNA in developing and implementing a strategic plan for the organization heavily focused on the needs of the nurses.
I also respond to the day-to-day running of the organization. I am a pension plan trustee for the NYSNA pension, as well. This role is equally near and dear to my heart. I believe that after a nurse has retired she deserves to live with financial dignity. It is my honor to assist in this role.
From your perspective, what does NYSNA do?
Our union is not just a union that negotiates a contract for its members, it is also charged with ensuring education to advance the profession and safety in every environment our nurses work and our patients visit. It is politically active — working to pass bills and address issues that not only benefit nurses and patients but the communities in which we work.
Our union is very active in the conversations and activities around climate change, as we know that this is supremely detrimental to communities — especially communities of low-income and color. We have seen the devastation that occurs all over the globe when the weather’s ferocity is unleashed. We have developed and participate in medical missions that help to alleviate some of the suffering of our brothers and sisters across the earth.
Returning nurses from these medical missions report a profound sense of giving, their perspectives about nursing and outlook on the human condition forever changed. Participation on medical missions is paid for by the nurses on the trips — a testament to the generosity of the nurses.
What is NYSNA’s future?
I want to see a move forward to strive for greater things and to become more unified. Respect for one another, despite our differences, make the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act a reality. We need enough nurses to do our jobs and to be able to deliver safe care to every patient irrespective of their status in life. We can do this if we ALL do our part — large or a small — and join together in solidarity.
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