Part one of our week-long series highlighting some of the amazing nurses of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Pennsylvania.
Sometimes Barb Delgado-Shomo has to remind herself that nursing is actually her job.
“I love my job so much that I forget I get paid for it,” she said. “I just like to help people. It’s my calling.”
Barb, an LPN at Schuylkill Medical Center South, still remembers the incident that sparked the call. She had befriended a girl in high school with a seizure disorder. The girl had had trouble making friends and Barb had become someone she relied on.
“She passed me a note one day that said, ‘If I go into a seizure, will you stay with me? Will you watch me?’” Barb recalls. “I didn’t know what to do, but I said OK. The next thing you know, she fell off her desk onto the floor.”
Barb remembers kneeling beside her friend as the bell rang and their classmates scrambled over them to exit the classroom.
“Nobody cared,” Barb said. “That’s when I realized I really care.”
Barb works in the nursing pool at Schuylkill, an assignment she loves because of the variety.
“Most nurses in the nursing pool welcome change,” she explains. “They like the idea of walking into the hospital and not knowing where they will end up that day.”
But it’s not just variety that drives her. Barb enjoys the challenges wherever they come.
“I always like to take the challenging patients,” she admits. “If there’s a grouchy patient, a noncompliant patient, a difficult patient — I want that patient. I kind of love them.”
Why go out of her way to seek out the difficult patients?
“I look at every patient as though they were a family member,” Barb said. “Take an elderly man – he was somebody’s son and his mother loved him so much and would want someone to care for him like a mother wants someone to care for her child. I try to pay that love and attention to everybody because everybody deserves it. No matter if you’re moody or unhappy or hard to deal with or whether — they are wonderful. Everybody should be special.”
Barb love for her fellow man is rooted in her deep spiritualism, but there are still challenges in her job she confesses she could do without.
“I don’t like overtime,” she admitted. “I don’t like night shifts. I’m not a night person. I can’t even stay up at a party.”
Barb also could do without the chronic understaffing that plagues many nursing units.
“I don’t like being understaffed and having to work like ‘On your mark, get set, go!’ and the next thing you know the day is done,” she said. “I’d rather give people my time.”
Understaffing is an important enough issue to Barb that at her previous job in a nursing home, Barb tried to start a petition to call for legislation setting nurse-to-patient ratios in long-term care facilities.
“I wasn’t very tech savvy so I didn’t get far with it,” she admits. “Now NJ has passed a law and I’m hoping that Pennsylvania will, too. I know there’s a rally in Harrisburg on May 10 about safe staffing legislation.”
That action, sponsored by the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Pennsylvania, will involve hundreds of nurses, caregivers and community members all calling legislators to pass Senate Bill 1081, “The Hospital Nursing Staff Report Card Act.”
That sort of civic mindedness and urge to act is part of what Barb enjoys about being part of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the healthcare workers union. In fact, Barb credits her union activism with protecting her job and the quality of care her patients receive.
Several years ago, her hospital considered doing away with LPNs on staff. It was when she and her union coworkers stood firm against it that the hospital reevaluated their decision.
“I’m not really a limelight person, believe me,” said Barb. “I would rather stand at the end of a line then at the front. But when something’s right, I step up to bat for it.”
When she’s not standing up for her patients and her coworkers, Barb is enjoying the tranquility of her 10-acre mountain home, complete with a goat, chickens, a cat and dog, and a loving husband.
“Every day I come home it’s like going on vacation,” she enthused. “That’s how I keep calm and peaceful.”