National Nurses United

Registered Nurse July-August 2009

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Profile:FINAL 9/2/09 3:16 PM Page 19 year to year. Due to cutbacks and "consolidation of resources," the very unsafe. I go home worrying, 'Did I do this? Did I not do it? Did I services the system provided, by whom, and at what location could miss something?'" Besides the local battles she helps fight, said Langford, she is change. For example, the system used to have a podiatry clinic that would also provide Langford's patients with services such as nail clip- proud of her role in helping lead an organization that unites nurses ping and wound care for feet. But after those clinic's functions were across the country toward winning common goals, such as high nursconsolidated at another location, that work shifted back to the nurses. ing and patient advocacy standards and a single-payer, national healthcare system for all. She Before Oak Forest, Langford noted that her parents, a retired had never worked at a unionized teacher and police officer, both facility. But she soon decided "These patients cannot get to the city live on fixed incomes and have that, because of the constantly [Chicago]. Even if they could, it would had trouble with their insurance. changing circumstances of her take them 45 minutes to an hour, dependRecently, Langford's father, who county employment, she had beting on the time of day. A lot of our buses suffered from prostate cancer, ter become involved and understop running at 6 p.m. You could take a needed a bone scan, but his stand her contract. "I needed to train, but you still need a bus to get to the insurance would not cover it. learn to take care of myself, and train. Even if you got there, you'd never Now they have learned he has then that led to taking care of my make it home. So they don't go. They wait bone disease. unit," said Langford. and then come to our emergency room." Registered nurses can blaze After CNA/NNOC started the trail for the country, said representing Cook County RNs in 2005, Langford began quickly taking on greater leadership roles. Langford. "I really do believe that people come to nursing because She became her unit representative, then a member of her facility they want to take care of and help people," she said. "As more nurses bargaining committee, then chief nurse representative at Oak Forest, are organized and able to stand up and speak even louder than we've then a board representative of Oak Forest, and in 2007 joined the been doing, I think we'll really get there." ■ CNA/NNOC board of directors. She was reelected this year. Probably the biggest challenge the Cook County nurses have had Lucia Hwang is editor of Registered Nurse. to face over the past few years has been the severe cuts to the system budget. Most of the system's community clinics, which provided primary care and served residents as a first-line point of access for healthcare instead of the emergency room, were shuttered. The longterm care division of Oak Forest Hospital was closed down. Langford and her fellow RNs were livid that the county was denying many lowincome Chicagoans their only avenue for getting healthcare services while the county failed to correct that nepotism, top-heavy administration, and inefficiencies that hurt its finances. "These are people Name: Brenda Langford, RN who wouldn't have access to anything else," said Langford. "Nobody Facility: Oak Forest Hospital, will give them the care they need if we don't." Cook County Health and Since then, Langford and Cook County RNs have publicly protestHospitals System ed at numerous rallies and fought to rebuild the public healthcare Unit: Telemetry system, starting with the community clinics and safe staffing in hosNursing for: 16 years pitals. "These patients cannot get to the city [Chicago]," Langford On CNA/NNOC board since: 2007 explained about the great need for outlying clinics. "Even if they Sign: Leo could, it would take them 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the Pet nursing peeve: Burned-out time of day. A lot of our buses stop running at 6 p.m. You could take a nurses who stop trying train, but you still need a bus to get to the train. Even if you got there, Favorite work snack: Red Vines licorice you'd never make it home. So they don't go. They wait and then come Latest work accomplishment: Upholding contract to our emergency room." language regarding non-nursing duties Langford and her colleagues continue to fight to rebuild and Color of favorite scrubs: She rotates through colorful restore the county's clinic system, attending town hall meetings to scrubs to contrast with Oak Forest's tan walls keep a watchful eye on the new CEO and staging actions. "I don't Hobbies: Painting art glass, interior decorating, home think the budget fight ever stops when it comes to an institution so remodeling, cooking, and her Collie shepherd mix dependent on public funds," said Langford. named Zeus The other big fight Cook County RNs are now embroiled in is conFavorite music: Jazz tract negotiations. The nurses are pushing for better staffing and Favorite books: Novels by Cherry Adair relief RNs, and to hold the line against takeaways and make improveSecret talent unrelated to nursing: Plays the piano ments where they can. "They're crying broke," said Langford, who serves on the bargaining committee, of the county. "But staffing is Profile J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 0 9 W W W. C A L N U R S E S . O R G REGISTERED NURSE 19

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