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"I became a nurse in 1994 — I feel very fortunate to have had such a rewarding career as a nurse and union member for the last 27 years. I feel nursing is a calling and vocation and not just a job."

This story was published in the Winter 2022 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

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I became a nurse in 1994 — I feel very fortunate to have had such a rewarding career as a nurse and union member for the last 27 years. I feel nursing is a calling and vocation and not just a job. Nursing means to me the ability to care for patients in a time when they need you the most — and not only with your nursing care skills. What I enjoy the most is educating patients and encouraging them to be more proactive with their health care needs.

I joined WSNA when I became employed at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in fall of 2000. I started to get involved with our WSNA local unit as a Birth Center department representative. It was important to me to get more involved in our local unit to stay informed on what is going on in our hospital and familiarize myself with our contract. From there I became an elected local unit officer and served as chair for many years. In 2021 I ran for the WSNA Board of Directors and won. I was very excited to serve in my elected position, but unfortunately because of health issues and an unexpected diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I had to step down from my positions with WSNA as well as from my job at Kadlec.

One of the most meaningful experiences I had with WSNA was testifying at the State Capitol on the bill to assure uninterrupted rest and meal breaks for nurses and other hospital employees. That bill passed into law in 2019, and I know my voice made a difference. I also was excited to participate in public service announcements during the pandemic, including one encouraging people to wear masks and another encouraging vaccination against COVID-19.

I tell other nurses that it’s important to become a member of their union because there is strength in numbers! When it comes to contract negotiations and voting on a new contract, we need to show our strength. But membership is also important because becoming more involved in your local unit helps you understand the other things going on. For example, the union plays an important role in staffing committees and safety committees.

I urge all of you to stay informed, familiarize yourself with your contract language, know your rights as an employee and union member. And lastly, become an active member of your local union in any role that best suits your lifestyles and work schedules. The experiences and knowledge you gain by being a union representative are invaluable. But most importantly, never forget the Nightingale pledge, the nursing oath we took when we graduated as nurses: To maintain and elevate the standard of our profession. Always feel proud of your profession, support each other, learn from each other, build each other up. And on hard days, reflect back on why you wanted to become a nurse.

I have seen some wonderful young nurses become involved and become such leaders in our local unit as well as getting involved at the state level with WSNA. It makes me very proud to see them grow just as I did so many years ago. As I leave Kadlec now, I am so proud of the team of officers that I am leaving behind — they are strong nurses and advocates for our patients and our nurses.

WSNA and nurses across the state mourn the January 2022 death of Martha Galvez. Martha's dedication to her patients, fellow nurses, and the nursing profession are unparalleled; we are grateful for her strength and service throughout the years. We will miss her greatly.