National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine January-February 2018

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becoming a staff member of CNA. She was a ubiquitous presence at rallies, pickets, strike lines, protests, board of supervisors meetings—any- where nurses were speaking up for themselves and their patients. She was passionate about winning a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health system. In 2006, McVay conceived of and founded the retiree division of CNA/NNOC, anticipating the wave of baby boomer RNs who would soon be leaving the workforce and whose energy, experience, knowledge, skills, and expertise were still valuable and needed to be kept within the organization. "The retiree division is something that I think has been missing," said McVay back then. "They have a lot of expertise and we need to be able to keep them active. One of the worst things you can do is retire and have no connection to some- thing you did for 20 to 30 years. You walk away feeling like you no longer belong here—there's something terribly wrong with that pic- ture." McVay's touchstone was nursing, and that, to her, meant caring— on all levels—for people. "Nursing is caring," said McVay. "What I say 'caring,' I mean about everything. You care about the people that you are taking care of, but you also care about their family. You care about what's happening in the community. You're really involved emotionally in trying to help whomever you may be caring for. But that is the biggest trait that I think nurses have." She cared deeply about future generations and worried whether younger nurses were being properly educated and mentored in the fundamentals of the nursing process. She was in support of technol- ogy that served as tools in helping nurses do their jobs, but not in technology that would do nurses' jobs for them. She believed whole- heartedly in the powers of direct nursing assessment; she would not consider a patient assessed unless she could touch, see, smell, hear, and talk to the person. One time, she had walked into a room just as the orderly was about to take the patient's meal tray away. She asked him to pause for a moment and lifted the napkin to look at the tray. With one look, she immediately called the doctor and the patient was in surgery before the end of the hour. What she had seen was that the food tray had been eaten strictly down the middle, signaling that the diabetic patient could not see the food on the other half. They were able to save the patient's vision in one eye, and that was due to Kay's thorough and creative assessments. "Us oldtimers, we were told to 'Watch the patient,'" McVay liked to say. McVay was once asked what she wanted CNA to look like in 100 years. "I want it to be honest. I want it to be fair. I want it to continue to have the kind of goals and integrity that it has today," said McVay. "I want it to always act in an honest and a direct way. I want it to be the organization that I see it is today. It needs to lead. It needs to show how to the other groups. How to bring people along, to make them feel wanted, to make them feel that they're valuable. That is something that this organization does. It treats the nurses as if they are valuable, because they are, and that's a priceless gift, and that's what I would like to see in the future." Lucia Hwang is editor of National Nurse. J A N U A R Y | F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 23 "To understand labor means to understand what the problems are, what needs to be done to recognize the working person, to support the working person, to be able to express themselves and to protect themselves." THOUGHTS ON KAY McVAY "A great woman has now passed. I loved Kay. She was such a profound figure in history and in building this organization. She has been a warrior in changing the world of nursing and has a lasting impact on each of us in our work and as potential patients, more than anyone might imagine." —RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of CNA/NNOC and NNU "She had this way of carrying herself with such conviction when she was on a mission that could make policemen and security guards back down. It was just amazing to see it. Yet she would be so gentle, kind, and generous. You were always glad you were on her side." —Deborah Burger, RN and CNA/NNOC and NNU copresident "Kay always went out of her way to embrace and involve new mem- bers and staff. She genuinely understand her role in building this union and did it with passion and commitment." —Bonnie Castillo, RN and asso- ciate executive director of CNA/NNOC and NNU "Kay McVay was one of the most understated, but simultaneously influential and respected RN leaders in CNA history. No other RN could lead 2,500 Kaiser RNs on a 7-week wildcat strike in support of other workers, victorious CNA bargaining teams, CNA's ratio fights, and still be surprised when an RN would tell her how honored they were to meet her. Kay was a loyal friend and a fierce advocate." —Jim Ryder, former Kaiser division director "Kay was fiercely proud of being a nurse, of her chosen profession, and her union. Being a union member, educating and mentoring other nurses to become leaders, to understand the importance of the labor move- ment and the values of our organization, and that Medicare be available for all. I think those were her passions." —DeAnn McEwen, RN and friend "It was reassuring to know that she was always there for advice and guidance. The rich history and lessons learned are a tribute to a spectacular leader. Our world is a better place because of Kay's vision."—Sandy Reding, RN and CNA/NNOC board member "She was a fierce fighter and her death will not be in vain. We will win Medicare for all." —Cathy Kennedy, RN and NNU executive vice president "A beloved activist and mentor, a life well lived fighting for social justice." —Sherri Stoddard, RN and CNA/NNOC board member "I will miss her scolding me." —Martha Kuhl, RN and NNU secretary-treasurer

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