Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thoughts from the AFT HNP Professional Issues Conference

“Know your audience,” said Lauren Samet, the Assistant Director of AFT PSRP, as she addressed the conference Saturday about effective public speaking.

I spent this week in Washington at the AFT Nurses and Healthcare Professionals Lobby Day, Professional Issues and Leadership Conference.

As she said it, I thought back to Thursday when I was preparing to introduce Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney to the conference.  As we waited for Joe’s turn to speak, he leaned over and asked if the members in attendance were all healthcare providers.  I said yes, nurses, techs, and other healthcare workers from across the country, many of them his constituents.
It was just what Lauren had said, “Know your audience.”

As always, the Healthcare PIC was fantastic.
On Wednesday we lobbied on Capitol Hill.  85 members made 200 office visits to Senators, Congresspeople, and OSHA.  We spoke to them about safe staffing, ratios, safe patient handling, workplace violence, prescription price gouging, and the current issues with Opioids, Zika and the Flint Michigan water crisis.
Thursday and Friday were full of sessions on topics important to our professions and wonderful speakers.  President Randi spoke, VP Mary Catherine instructed a session, and even I got to present with Kyle Arnone on hospital finances.
Saturday was an additional day on leadership. 

It wasn’t all work however, there were evening receptions and “team building” after the receptions, and there were conversations with friends, both new and old.
I’ll share one example.  

Alice Leo is a nurse from Vermont whom I deeply admire.  In 2013 she and her colleges organized their hospital, Porter Medical Center, much as we had done 2 years before at Backus.  We had a conversation with nurses from Montana about their organizing drive.  It was emotionally fulfilling for me, to relive the experience though the eyes of Alice and the Montana nurses.  I’m sure the Montana nurses feel we did them a great favor, but in truth, they did us just as great a favor.

That’s what unions and Professional Issue Conferences are all about, people coming together from across the country and sharing their knowledge and solidarity.

It was great to reconnect with staff, members and leaders whom I have come to know over the last few years, it was great to be there with the Connecticut delegation, and a privilege to co-present with Kyle.  The opportunity to introduce two of the Connecticut’s U.S. Representatives, Joe Courtney and Rosa Delaura, to my healthcare sisters and brothers was an amazing honor.

Thursday night we held a reception, complete with dancing.  As the evening was coming to a close and the DJ played the last song, a completely spontaneous moment of solidarity occurred.

Prince’s “Purple Rain” brought all to the floor. Forming a circle and clasping hands together and held high, we swayed to the music, the sisters and brothers of AFT NHP, in solidarity.

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