Tagged as Kaiser Permanente


Kaiser Nurses Attend College for Free Through Union-Negotiated Program

Local 400 shop stewards Lisa Golden (left) and Jennifer Brown (right) are pursuing college degrees at no cost thanks to a grant from the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust, a union scholarship program available to Local 400 members working at Kaiser Permanente.

For most people, by the time your children are in college or beyond, you’re more likely to be thinking about retirement than education. But Kaiser shop stewards Lisa Golden and Jennifer Brown are not most people.

Jennifer currently has three children in college—a 24-year-old nursing student at Marymount University, a 21-year-old attending community college, and an 18-year freshman at Virginia Tech University. But she has joined them, pursuing a Master’s in Nursing Education at Colorado Technical University (CTU).  “We bond and commiserate over due dates and exams,” she said. “And we tease my husband and tell him to go back to college and do something. “

Lisa, who has raised three sons, with one still in college, also decided it was time to go back to school—first for a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) and now for a Master’s in Nursing Education.

And neither Jennifer nor Lisa is paying a penny to realize their dreams of higher education and career advancement—thanks to their union.

That’s because Local 400 and the other members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions negotiated the establishment of the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust in the 2005 national bargaining. The Trust offers Kaiser union members grants for higher education and training, “with the goal of creating a culture that values and invests in lifelong learning and enhanced career development opportunities for represented employees.”

Several years ago, Lisa, the lead OB-GYN nurse at Kaiser’s Manassas Health Center, applied for and received a grant to pursue her BSN degree.  “I feel so blessed to work for a company that has the Ben Hudnall Trust and that my union offers this,” she said. “It is such an awesome opportunity and one that very few other companies have. I feel like pinching myself. Parenting has shown me the expense of higher education. How can you turn down free learning opportunities?”

“It took 16 months,” she said. “I loved being an adult learner. I had no idea I’d be as good a student as I was. But I discovered that now I have the patience to learn and none of the distractions of youth. I enjoyed almost every moment of it. And at the end, I said, ‘If they offer a Master’s program, I’d be a fool to pass it up.’”

Lisa is no fool. In January, the Hudnall Trust started offering commitment grants for Kaiser union members to get a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education. (Grants for a Master’s in Nursing Administration are also available.) And on April 3rd, armed with her grant, Lisa will start classes.

Lisa credits Jennifer, an OB-GYN nurse at Kaiser’s Woodbridge Health Center, with making her aware of this new opportunity. Jennifer started the same program on February 13th.

“When I came to Kaiser two and a half years ago, I had already gotten my BSN,” Jennifer said. “Unlike Lisa, I had to pay tuition for that because my employer didn’t offer any help. But as soon as I learned about the Hudnall Trust, I went to our education liaison and asked if it would cover a Master’s program. She told me to keep checking back, so I did—like a pest. And in January, they came through. The moment I heard, I picked up phone and said, ‘I want in!’”

Now nearing the end of her first class, Jennifer said, “Considering I haven’t been in school for a while, the experience has been pretty awesome. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I will tell you hands down that CTU is doing phenomenal job of guiding me through this.

“What’s especially nice is they make it easy for you,” she said. “There’s a great orientation course. Textbooks are provided for free in e-book form. They lend you a Chrome Computer with all the software you need for free. And best of all, the Hudnall Trust offers a stipend so if you need to miss one eight-hour shift a week to study, you’ll get paid for that, too.”

Before joining Kaiser, Jennifer was a senior regional trainer for the Patient First urgent care center chain. As she noted, “I have a natural passion for teaching and after I get my Master’s, I intend to be a nurse educator. My co-workers think I’m nuts; I’ve been telling them all to go to school. I don’t care what your position is, education is the key to everything, so when it’s free you’ve got to take advantage.”

Lisa couldn’t agree more, calling it a “no-brainer.” She also intends to be a nursing educator after she receives her degree. “Old dogs can still learn new tricks,” she said. “There’s no cap on age; you should learn the rest of your life.”

Lisa started at Kaiser in 1999. After providing medical advice for five years, she became a clinical nurse. And for the past nine years, she has served as shop steward. “Early in my career, I learned first-hand what my union could do for me, helping to resolve an issue I faced. Several years later, when I saw others weren’t getting a fair shake, I felt like I should be their voice, to help walk them through the process.

“I worked in a non-union environment before I came to Kaiser,” Lisa said. “It stinks. You have no rights and no voice. Coming to Kaiser and finding it’s a union shop, I thought, “Oh my God, there’s power here!’ I feel like we’re on equal ground when we go into a meeting and represent our members. We’re all equal partners. Not only do we get great pay and benefits, but most importantly, we have power in numbers and a seat at the table.

“Being a steward has been a really fulfilling experience,” she added. “It has helped me hone my management skills.”

Jennifer has been a shop steward for approximately two years, and most of her previous jobs were non-union, too.  “Working in other facilities, as nurses, we don’t have much of a voice in what we do and how we do it,” she said. “But I saw how we have a voice at Kaiser, thanks to our union, and being a steward was something I wanted to be part of.

“As a natural teacher, I take this role very seriously,” Jennifer said. “I make the rounds and let people know I’m available. When we get new staff, I talk with them about the benefits of being union. I try to be proactive and let people know not to wait until a small problem becomes big problem. When they come to me sooner rather than later, we can be a lot more effective when we intercede on their behalf. And I make sure they read their contract.”

Jennifer is proud to be a Local 400 member. “It means knowing that I have someone to fight for me, and to support our local and national agreements,” she said. “It’s nice to know the protection is there. And it’s nice to have the Labor-Management Partnership, which often works very well in our facility.”

Learn More About the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust

Both Lisa and Jennifer strongly encourage Kaiser members to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the Hudnall Trust. To find out more, please visit the Trust’s website at www.bhmt.org.

For additional information, Virginia and Washington, D.C. members can contact Kaiser career counselor Mary Wiggins, M.Ed. at (510) 381-7033 or Mary.C.Wiggins@kp.org. Maryland members should contact Robin B. Kelly at (240) 298-8026 or Robin.B.Kelly@kp.org.

Local 400 Nurse Retires After More Than 50 Years

Local 400 member, Joyce Graham, is retiring in May after more than 50 years working as a nurse.

Joyce Graham says, “I like to be where the action is.” If anything, that’s an understatement. But it goes a long way toward explaining why she has kept working as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente into her late 70s, and is only now retiring this May.

“People have been coming up to me for years, asking me when I was going to retire,” Joyce said. “But nursing is not for wimps. I told them I’m working on making the Guinness Book of World Records. But then I saw on TV that there’s a nurse here in D.C. still working in her 90s. I’m not going to top her, so I figured it was time for me to do other things.”

But the decision wasn’t easy because she loves nursing, her employer and her union so much. “It’s so nice to take care of people and see them get better, it’s rewarding,” she said.

“I’m just going to miss her—she’s a true inspiration for nurses,” said Louise (Lu) Casa, a Kaiser shop steward, nurse practitioner, and longtime colleague and friend of Joyce. “Ever since I’ve known her, she has been a role model. Whenever anything was needed, Joyce was right there. She would help her colleagues, and go out of way to make sure Kaiser patients were properly cared for. She’s remarkable and the younger nurses all look up to her.”

Joyce Graham graduated first in her class at the University of the District of Columbia’s School of Nursing.

Joyce’s more than 50 years in nursing have been marked by a constant drive for self-improvement and desire to learn new skills—so much so, that she was a member of the first graduating class of the University of the District of Columbia’s School of Nursing. And she finished first in her class!

Making her achievement all the more remarkable, Joyce was working as a surgical intensive care nurse at the Washington Veterans Hospital at the same time she was getting her degree—and taking care of her teenage daughter and 18-month-old son, too. “I worked the evening shift from 3:30 to midnight. I got up very early in the morning and tried to prepare dinner for my family before I left to attend school. In between my morning classes and work, I would try to get a few hours of studying in.”

Little wonder that Lu Casa marvels at Joyce’s “amazing energy.”

Joyce started working as a licensed practical nurse in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s. In 1965, she moved to Washington, D.C., and was hired at the VA hospital. After receiving her nursing degree in 1978 and becoming a registered nurse, she moved to internal medicine at the VA. Then, in 1986, she went to work at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, and later at the Washington Hospital Center in their postpartum wing. In 1992, at the encouragement of a friend from her VA Hospital days, Joyce joined Kaiser. She first worked in Advice and then moved to Rheumatology, working at Kaiser’s North Capitol Street and West End Health Centers.

Throughout this time, she conducted regular CPR classes to ensure that staff were certified in this life-saving procedure. She also served as lead nurse for Specialties (all departments other than Internal Medicine) and was responsible for ensuring that all clinical assistants were cross-trained to work in whatever department needed them.

“Joyce is always growing and changing in our profession,” Lu said. “When we opened our Capitol Hill office, our Dermatology Department launched a new therapy called PUVA that uses ultraviolet technology. Joyce was already in her 70s, but she embraced it and became a PUVA nurse.

“She’s someone who really rolls with the punches,” Lu added. “She’s a great patient advocate. And she never misses a day of work—she’s a perfect nurse.”

Joyce has always been a dedicated Local 400 member at Kaiser, too. “As a shop steward, whenever I needed help getting information out to our members, Joyce would help me,” Lu said. “She was like an undesignated steward’s assistant. And she would speak up to management if they were trying to do things she thought were wrong. She was always about making sure patients got the best care.”

Joyce moved from Pittsburgh to the District of Columbia in 1965 and worked at the VA hospital while she pursued her nursing degree.

“Our union’s done a good job,” Joyce said. “Kaiser’s Labor-Management Partnership is a good idea. [Local 400 Board Member] Jaki Bradley and Lu Casa work so hard for us and I’m really proud of them.”

Joyce’s colleagues all testify about her infectious spirit. “She loves to joke,” Lu said. “Joyce was famous for her baking and one April Fool’s Day, she brought in something that looked like one of her wonderful chocolate cakes. When we cut into it, we found it was a box with frosting spread all over it.”

“I like pulling pranks on people,” Joyce admitted. “I like humor. And bringing in food.”

Joyce is also known for her humility. “At Capitol Hill, we have to park offsite and take a shuttle to our offices,” Lu said. “We tried to get Joyce onsite parking to make it easier for her since she’s in her 70s. But she said, ‘No way—I’ll go to the parking lot like everyone else.’”

In retirement, Joyce has no intention of slowing down. “There are so many things I’d like to do,” she said. “I’ll be busy with work at my church, as always. I like to travel and I love going to museums and parades downtown, as well as movies. There’s so much to do and see.

“But I will miss my job,” she noted. “I really like Kaiser Permanente. It’s a great place to work and a great place to get medical care—you can’t beat it. I like their philosophy and how they treat their employees. And I love my colleagues and my profession.”