Good things come when you least expect it (Why I love my union!)


I can still remember when I first joined the NSWNA. I was in RPA Hospital for the Trainee Enrolled Nurse (TEN) orientation day when the NSWNA team spoke and handed out pamphlets to us encouraging us to join the union.

ruth iCU

I signed in right there and then because everyone did. Back then what I knew about unions can do for its member can fit a tiny match box. All I knew was that unions provide support for member nurses who get into trouble or at the receiving end of any injustice at work.

That was my attitude then. I joined because everyone did. But now,  I’m so pleased I did. I have reaped the benefits of being a part of a union. There are I have a lot of things that I am thankful for.

You want to know why I love my union? Just like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways:

1. Being a union member is more than fighting for fair pay or attending demonstrations against the Government for nurse-related issues.

During my third year at university (Australian Catholic University – North Sydney campus), whilst reading the latest issue of The Lamp, I saw the ad for the Edith Cavell Trust Foundation scholarship. Scholarship applications were being accepted at the time so I thought why not give it a shot, I’ve got nothing to lose.

So armed with nothing but my completed application form and positive vibes, I lodged my application. I waited then I waited some more. A few months have gone by before I heard from NSWNA about the decision. Imagine my great surprise when I received a letter from the union confirming that I, Ruth Guevara, a migrant from the Philippines was awarded the scholarship! That was one of the happiest days of my life!

At the end of my last semester at ACU, to show how grateful I was to be awarded this beautiful gift of financial assistance, I wrote a letter of thanks to the union where I also briefly shared my university life. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that the board will appreciate my letter enough to ask me if they could publish it in the Lamp magazine.

Of course, I said yes because it is an honour to be featured in the Lamp. It became the letter of the month on the Lamp March 2009 issue. I honestly thought that was the end of my affiliation with the union but obviously it didn’t stop there.

2. My union does not only support our rights as nurses, my union also provides as a platform to participate in the 21st century’s way of communicating and interacting with other nurses.

I saw an ad in The Lamp calling for volunteers to champion the new social networking website that is currently under development sponsored by NSWNA. I wasn’t sure whether I had anything to contribute and if I wrote well enough to make a positive influence in our nursing community but just like the scholarship application, I gave it a go and registered my interest. After all, I had nothing to lose and I might learn new skills in the Internet that I didn’t know about!

Fortunately for me, after submitting a sample blog post on a given topic and an informal chat with our Social Media Tutor, I got in the shortlisted and was advised that I was selected!

With 4 other nurses, we headed to our training workshop at the NSWNA office which was conducted by Shannon’s Way. This workshop allowed me to meet the 4 other nurses selected to be part of the pilot group and to learn about the proposed site. This was back in June prior to the launch of Nurse Uncut and now, as they say, the rest is history!

Nurse Uncut is live and flourishing. A site for the voice of nurses like you and me to be heard. I am honoured to be part of the Nurse Uncut pioneers. The site didn’t just let me meet and interact with other nurses, being part of the pilot group also gave me new skills. Prior to joining Nurse Uncut, my internet activity were limited to emails, web surfing, Facebook and Yahoo Messenger. Now, I am blogging (writing blog posts on topics near and dear to my heart, I have accounts in LinkedIn, Twitter and learning more and more about social media. Not only that, I also got to be in the cover of The Lamp! All of these courtesy of NSWNA.

I really feel good about myself. I am learning first hand what the Union can do for me. NSWNA is like family to me. The union bore witness to the beginning of my nursing career till where I am now. I am confident that my union will be with me till the day I retire. I’m very thankful to them.

What about you? Are you a member of your union? What do you like about them? If you’re not a member, what’s stopping you to join?


  1. Hear! Hear! I’m with you Ruth – NSWNA is a great union and reflects nursing practice in that it is “current & Evidence-based” by taking us all on-line to have-a-chat about the day-to-day experiences and needs of nurses. I have always been a member and it has been the best advocate industrially and professionally for nurses. NSWNA has personally helped me industrially with an injustice, educationally – I’ve received an Edith Cavell scholarship too and socially by selecting me to be a “pioneer-blogger” for Nurse Uncut! Thanks NSWNA.

  2. NSWNA Yeah, I have not long got onto the Nurse Uncut site myself, and joined the NSWNA as a trainee enrolled nurse years ago. I have done the branch officials and activists (BOAT) training through the NSWNA and was the assistant secretary for the union in my previous workplace. I have not managed to be involved in this way yet in my new workplace. I have attended NSWNA annual meetings as an observer (its free, you get fed, meet people AND it is educational- just contact the branch office). What a caper! I encourage people to join up where applicable too. If only for playing a small part in protecting and promoting workplace conditions and rights. Additionally I have found it handy to have a delegate about in the workplace in case of one of THOSE kinds of unpredictable meetings (they provide appropriate advice and support whilst remaining neutral). Certain meetings with establishment it is unwise to go in alone, and you SHOULD have support, if only to keep the process fair and open! For at 2 years in a row it looked like we would not have had a local branch due to the need to have a branch president and a secretary as a minimum, with initially no volunteers. It is amazing though, that we nearly did not have our hospital branch but when nurses have an issue see how many can turn up to a branch meeting then!!!!!

  3. NSWNA our Union Yes I am with you to Ruth.When I was first asked to be a DELEGATE I said I cant I am to busy etc etc.A very wise RN said to me I think you should really give it a go Linda you would be great .Well becoming a Delegate has certainly changed my life .I have learned so much .The NSWNA staff have been there to help me along the way.Very fortunate to have two wonderful Mentor Organisers who were and still are always around to help and advise .Always something to learn or a campaign to be involved in .
    I to am a pioneer BLOGGER.Being involved in NURSE UNCUT was fun right from the start .Nurse Uncut has given me as a DELEGATE for the AGED CARE sector a great chance to get the message out and share stories.So THANKS NSWNA for the wonderful oppurtunities you give us to expand our horizons climb MOUNTAINS .

  4. Ruth you sound unstoppable! Ruth give yourself a well eant pat on the back! The union has fortunately been able to provide you with an opportunity and the vehicle for you to be all that you can be. I find the magic often starts when you simply ASK for what you want. Rich

  5. My family I too joined the union “because everyone did”, but would not be without it now. After 20 odd years in this profession the union has been a life-saver, an information provider, and a way for me to see what the rest of the world of nursing is doing.
    Everyday we go to work and try our best to be a patient advocate. We are confronted with difficult patients, difficult relatives and difficult doctors! (I work in a high stress area). If ever I need advice about my ‘rights’, I know who to call. If ever any of my colleague’s ask for advice, I know who to advise THEM to call.
    And now this! Another forum to open, read, laugh and give an opinion.
    Thank-you NSWNA! You’ve been there for me in good times and bad, at the start and I know until the end of my professional career! Your like a parent for the profession of ‘nursing’- for ALL nurses- from trainees to EN’s to RN’s and above! I love being part of this ‘family’!

  6. Proud to belong Thanks for sharing your talent Ruth..I truly believed that some people are just destined to be a Nurse because they are able and capable to look after patient with all their best and I can say, you are one of them ,though we have not met, I can relate with your experience through your blogs.I totally agree with you, our Union truly deserved to be thanked for, for continuously fighting for the good of the profession. Nursing had gone a long way since Florence Nightingale’s time. Nursing is very much different now but what remains and really needed is a common powerful voice to protect our profession and our rights as NURSES.Thanks to NSWNA for the undying effort to improve the future of Nursing profession.

  7. Great NSWNA Like so many others I was given ‘heaps as to DON’T GO THERE’ re NSWNA.
    Me being me… it came about that I was the very first Delegate for CCH Woy Woy current Branch. My very first ‘full-on’ Delos Race Course Event was an event.
    So many, all united, one vision, several songs and tunes all in sincckk. I was so proud to be there, learn so much more on what was available. Positive support.
    From this move with others in our Branch we saved some 25 odd nurse places against all odds from CCH Heads in Management.
    Do not ever think you are alone as ‘a nurse’. We belong to a great Union.
    Make time to go into CBD Labor House, near Chinatown. Go see the great painted banners that were used in N S W in many Union Headed areas. You are part of a long proud historic movement in Australia.
    Stay connected and support all of us from Brett down.


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