I went to nursing school for many of the same reasons others do—a good salary, job security and growth. Sealing the deal was my best friend at the time, who had been already been accepted to nursing school. I enjoyed nursing school but did not enjoy working as a Registered Nurse in the hospital as much as I thought I would, so I continued school to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP).
When I finished NP school, no one was hiring NPs in the Midwest where I lived. So I moved to California. I had a few job offers, including Kaiser. I knew very little about integrated health care systems such as Kaiser, and was intrigued to see how Kaiser worked, so I took the offer from Kaiser. And, as most of us think when first starting out in nursing, I figured I would go elsewhere after a few years but 27 years later I am still here. Kaiser Downey is my home away from home and everyone I work with is like family.
Growing up, I lived in an area of steel mills and oil refineries so unions were a big part of our community. However, I did not live in a union family so I did not know much about unions and really did not have an opinion either way. Unions were not found in health care settings at that time. So, it came as a surprise to me when I found out that as a NP at Kaiser I would be a member of a union. Over the years I have come to understand how a union works and the purpose of a union. The benefits that we all have because of the National Agreement are some of the best benefits out there. Our union leadership and negotiating team have done a great job in making sure that our work environment, benefits and compensation are maintained at high standards.
The union has been pivotal in showing Kaiser Downey hospital administration the value of NPs. I believe the union has helped to maintain the majority of the NP positions here at Downey. Now that the CNMs are part of the union, I believe they feel more secure in their positions as well.
We are at a juncture in health care that gives all of us a unique opportunity to show our value to our employers and the health care community. We should strive to have the conversations, be on committees and be at the table when plans are being made. It should be well known that as health care professionals and union members, we want to be part of the team and part of the solution. This is our chance to take a more active role, and to help more patients than ever before, and we should make the most of it.