Elena Sangit, RN

At Panorama City, we got the whole management team in the Emergency Department replaced. This was only after repeated contract violations: chronic understaffing that threatened patient safety, schedules not being posted timely, so no one knew when they were supposed to work—which contributed to the understaffing. We met with the department heads and tried to resolve the problems, with no luck. Morale suffered. Finally the staff all came together and said, no more. We petitioned for their removal, and we were successful. The doctors were shocked. There really is strength in unity.

As Union members, we need to realize that we are the union. We’re at the bedside, and we have to hold management accountable. I’m the Union Steward for my department, Pediatrics, and I used to be a Contract Specialist. I generally know the contract better than management. At times staffing has been an issue for us. Children are not adults. Pediatrics is a specialty. We have to understand child development in order to assess our patients appropriately. Management might float an adult Med-Surg to Pediatrics and think the numbers look fine, but patient safety is compromised. People have to realize that just because Kaiser has agreed to something like staffing ratios, doesn’t mean it will always happen. We have to be vigilant. And we need to continue to advocate for patient safety.

I always knew that I wanted to work with children. Then I was hospitalized as a teenager. I had a good experience with the nurses who took care of me, so that’s what steered me into pediatric nursing. Before I came to Kaiser I worked at Northridge Hospital and helped organize the nurses’ union there. This was before the state staffing ratios took effect, which UNAC/UHCP helped put in place. I was a new grad, and they left me with fourteen patients and only two LVN floats, who couldn’t hang medications or assess patients. I was essentially alone. We had to form a Union and hold the hospital accountable.

From that experience I’m familiar with the tactics bosses use against organizers, like saying that a Union can’t do anything about staffing—and I know better. So I’ve been happy to help organize new members like at Beverly Hospital, and the Kaiser Therapists who just joined. A Physical Therapist at Panorama City who’d been against joining the Union came up to me today and said, “Thank you so much. We’re selecting our representatives to the Negotiating Team now, and this is the best thing that could have happened to us.” It’s really important to keep active. We are the Union, and every one of us needs to be involved.