There are days we all have when we find ourselves taking pause, taking a look around, and thinking…“Yes, I am in the right place at the right time.” I had three of those days last week at the National Nurse Alliance Conference, during which I had the good fortune and honor to work, learn and, laugh with more than 400 SEIU Registered Nurses.
Someone from the International came up to me and asked, “So, Negri … what’s with you and the nurses?” I said, “We’re amazing men and women whose power cannot be reckoned with — even if some us have yet to fully tap into that power.” I got one of those “right on, brother” smiles.
But I wholeheartedly believe that. Our Union’s nurses are hardworking, passionate, smart, OUTSPOKEN, and truly fantastic people who are humble enough to keep learning and keen enough to keep teaching. Maybe you think that is a “so what” statement, but I can tell you firsthand, it is a rare and precious gift, it speaks volumes to who we are individually and, more importantly, collectively.
There were a few nurse/union leaders who worked diligently (read: day-and-night) to pull our conference together. We begin the planning process as a committee of seven nurses and International staffers from different parts of the country who’d get together on the phone a couple times a week and exchange (what sometimes felt like!) 10 million emails a day. The result was that we formed a chain of sturdy links that could not be broken. I honestly believe that if any one person on this committee was not present, this chain would have fallen apart months ago.
I want to share with you about two people in particular from the committee who deserve to hear a collective and massive thank you from all of us for their incredible work in making the conference go forth.
*Kathleen Magaro, RNC, MPA*
If only you could’ve seen Kathy in action! She held our committee accountable and moving forward, no easy feat. She’d listen closely to all of us before bringing us to decisions in a swift and seemingly easy manner — traits of a true union leader we should all admire. What I learned from Kathy during this process was how an experienced nurse-leader faces challenges head on: She looks, applies analysis, finds the remedy, gets the group to weigh in, then collects the input to come to a final decision … and then executes like an archer would hit their target. Can you imagine? Kathy and I were exchanging emails regarding the conference at midnight, six in the morning, phone calls in the middle of the day, text messages during the conference calls … holy cow, Sisters and Brothers, she is simply amazing and please believe me, there is no possible way that the conference would have happened without her at the helm.
I once told Edna that she was “our rock…” She is one of the most tireless, hardworking, smart-working, dedicated people I ever had the good fortune of working with. Edna makes things happen – I can’t think of any other way of putting that … Edna makes things happen. I went to Edna with endless questions in order to get my work done: “I need an email list, where can I get one?” “I need phone numbers for XYZ…do you happen to have that?” “I need 10 minutes of therapy, can we talk?” She is brilliant in her approach and has this awesome and very cool under the collar swiftness I can only hope to have one day. What I found out was that it wasn’t just me leaning on our Rock to move the work forward, EVERY ONE OF US did as well. No need to be jealous, but I will brag a little in saying that I get to work with Edna every day at Headquarters.
Report-Back to Members: Nurse Alliance Conference 2011
by Katherine (Kathy) Hughes, RN, CCRN 121RN Labor Specialist / Nurse Alliance of California Liaison
On October 18 and 19, more than 400 SEIU Registered Nurses from around the country attended our “Summit onNurse Leadership: Taking Action to Create Healthier Communities” in Washington, DC.
Our conference focused on the future of nursing and how nurses are uniting to help create healthier communities through better jobs and better healthcare. Our nurses also learned about a new nationwide education program run by SEIU nurse leaders, Empowering Patients, targeted at informing our co-workers and patients of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The agenda included such topics as: a review of Nurse Leadership 2009-2011 presented by NA President Dian Palmer, RN accompanied by a video (http://youtu.be/QPy-banva_A) and slide show of our accomplishments nationwide. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry presented inspiring words about the RN’s role in the Fight For a Fair Economy campaign.
We were also blessed to have The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, come join our conference one day to inform our nurses just how crucial they are to quality healthcare and patient care.
There were several breakout sessions for the nurses to choose from: Best Practices Related to Safe Staffing; Health Information Technology; Labor/Management Success Stories; Social Networking and how to Empower and Keep Nurses in Touch with One Another; Developing new Leaders and Problem Solving from One end of the Country to the Next; Health and Safety and Workplace Violence Prevention. There was a wide range of interesting and compelling classes available. The only problem was choosing which ones to attend – they were all worthwhile!
Wednesday saw us learning how and why nurses are the key to making sure patients know about the Affordable Care Act’s benefits and insurance protections. Nurse leaders from SEIU Local 521 from Bakersfield shared how they brought information about the healthcare law to the nurses and patients in their communities. Partnering with SEIU Local 1000 allowed them to effectively reach out to even more nurses and the patients they care for.
It was also a big day for nurses to go to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of their patients and fellow nurses to protect healthcare funding, specifically Medicaid and Medicare, from further cuts. Our nurses delivered their handwritten letters to their members of Congress, detailing exactly how cuts to Medicaid and Medicare will affect patient care and add to job losses and describing the patients who would be most at risk from cuts. Not content with lobbying members of Congress in their offices, hundreds of our nurses marched in front of the Republican National Committee headquarters and staged a “Code Blue” for quality healthcare and quality jobs.
Hearing the term “Code Blue” strikes a note with every nurse and healthcare professional; those words are not taken lightly in our line of work. They mean that someone is dying and needs to be saved. Nurses from every nursing discipline from all across our nation, representing 85,000 Registered Nurses and made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents are asking the Congressional “Supercommittee” and their members of Congress to say no to cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
On a celebratory note, several members of SEIU Local 721 from Los Angeles presented Senator Barbara Boxer with the 2011 Nightingale Award, recognizing her work and support of nurses. Later that afternoon, about 30 of our nurses attended a rally in support of public employees and opposing further budget cuts to the vital services provided by teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at this event; it was thrilling and a tremendous honor to be there, not only to see our VP in person, but to support fellow public employees.
October 19th nurses day of action coverage:
- Blog Post on the Nurses’ Code Blue on Capitol Hill
- Watch the video from our day rally and lobbying on Capitol Hill
- Read excerpts from the letters RNs wrote to their members of Congress
- See the recommendations nurses sent “supercommittee” Co-Chairs, Representative Jeb Hensarling and Senator Patty Murray
- More online resources and fact sheets on SEIU.org you may find helpful:
- The Affordable Care Act: Learn about the healthcare law and how it is benefitting your patients, family and communities.
- [NEW!] Where the Jobs Are: Healthcare: Now more than ever, Americans cannot afford devastating cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. Additional cuts to these vital healthcare programs would also threaten quality healthcare jobs across every state.
- FACTSHEET: 30 ways Medicaid matters to Americans.