Nursing Matters

RN Spotlight: Maria Young

March 14, 2023

Maria Young, RN – Branch 11 

How long have you been an RN?
I have been an RN for just over four years; I graduated in 2019.

Where do you work?
I work with the Opioid Dependency Treatment team on the west coast of the island.

What position(s) do you hold with your Branch?
I am the treasurer with Branch 11 (Corner Brook) and I’m also a Shop Steward.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer with RNU?
I decided to become a volunteer with my branch because I’ve seen and experienced the difficulties that RNs and NPs are experiencing. I wanted to be a part of the solution and see how I could better the situation for all current and future RNs and NPs.

What’s one thing you’ve learned since getting involved with RNU?
I have learned an incredible amount since getting involved with RNU! Honestly, it’s so hard to name just one thing. I think the most important thing that I learned is that if you want to be heard, you need to speak up, and that if you want change, you need to be willing to work hard towards the solution.

I also learned so much about the role of the union as it pertains to the RN/NP career. Before becoming involved, I did not understand the extent to which the union is involved in the lives and careers of our members. I did not realize how much dedication, hard work, and perseverance is involved. It’s amazing to witness the incredible amount of work that the RNU office staff and volunteers have done (and continue to do) to support the RNs and NPs of our province.

In addition to being Shop Steward and Treasurer, you joined the Negotiating Team. Why were you interested in joining the team?
It’s funny because when I put my name forward, I really didn’t expect to be chosen. I didn’t think I would be chosen because I don’t have a lot of experience as a registered nurse and therefore, not a lot of experience with the union. I was pleasantly surprised when I was selected, and the reason I did apply was because I thought it would be a wonderful learning opportunity and also a great way to use my voice to help the RNs and NPs of western Newfoundland and Labrador, and the rest of the province.

Can you tell me more about the role the Negotiating Team plays?
The negotiation team advocates for an excellent and improved collective agreement for all RNUNL members. As a team, we thoroughly discuss the issues that our members want addressed and work to effectively respond to these needs through an updated collective agreement. The team then bargains with government, using our voices to bring our issues and concerns forward strongly, to obtain a collective agreement that benefits our members.

What is something you’ve learned since being on the Negotiating Team?
Since being on the Negotiating Team, I’ve learned that there are a lot of similar issues facing registered nurses and nurse practitioners… but each region, each specialty, and area of work, is challenged by issues slightly differently and also has challenges that are unique to them. RNs and NPs have differences in the issues that they are facing as well. Being on the Negotiating Team has really opened my eyes to the magnitude of the issues facing our members.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the team this round?
I think the biggest challenge facing the team this round is a balance between getting a collective agreement in a timely manner, and ensuring that all issues are addressed and discussed thoroughly. Our members are exhausted and are desperately wanting an updated collective agreement, and the benefits that come along with it. And I understand that. It has been a grueling few years and it is an incredibly difficult time to be an RN/NP; many are looking for a reason to hold on and to continue working in the nursing profession in this province. But there are many issues that need to be considered and are worthy of discussion, and working towards resolutions for these issues takes time. It is my hope that members are understanding that the negotiation team is working diligently through the bargaining process for a collective agreement that is in their best interests.

What do you think success will look like?
I think success will look like a collective agreement that retains our current members, recruits new members, and protects all within the healthcare system. Our members deserve respect and fairness. We deserve a collective agreement that reflects RN/NP value and proves to our members that working in Newfoundland and Labrador is desirable. Further, we want to extend this desirability to work in NL to others (including students, former RNUNL members, and those who live outside of our province) and recruit them to work in our beautiful province. And lastly, we want to ensure that our collective agreement promotes a safe, high-quality public healthcare system for all.

Why do you think it’s important to get involved with your union?
I think it’s important to get involved with your own union so you can understand your own rights as a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. But also to invoke change when needed, and to be a strong voice for yourself and your colleagues.

What advice would you give an RN or NP who is considering getting involved in their union?
I would just advise them to get involved! I had very little involvement during my first two years as a registered nurse, and now I know I will be involved for the entirety of my career. There are a variety of ways to be involved with varying time commitments, so there’s really a place for everybody. It’s so rewarding and just an incredible learning opportunity. It also promotes a sense of community among registered nurses and nurse practitioners. And there really are so many genuine and supportive union volunteers that will help guide you as you find your voice.

What’s been a favourite memory for you as a registered nurse?
I have so many great memories because I’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many remarkable coworkers, patients, and families.

One of my favourites: I had a patient, he asked me my name, and he took it down in his little black book. And of course, I was like, “did I say something wrong?” It was just a bit strange for someone to do. But after he was discharged from the hospital, I received flowers delivered to the floor from that patient. It felt good to be recognized for providing good care to someone. It was just a really sweet gesture from that patient. It melted my heart, it was nice.

What makes you proud to be an RN?
I’m proud to be a registered nurse because I can be a source of support for patients and their families that I only know because of my work. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are a special, caring group of people that I am so proud to be a part of. We are there for other people during some of their most difficult and vulnerable times, and we often develop memorable relationships with the people that we care for. It’s such an honour to be that support for people.