Member Story – Connie Amos
“Experiencing Nursing in a New Light.”
For Connie Amos, there’s a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud: her chosen profession of nursing is enjoying newfound appreciation during a challenging time.
“What my brothers and sisters in nursing have always called a ‘thankless’ job is being seen in a new light,” says Connie. “We’re feeling more appreciated, and more respected for the things we do.”
Connie became a nurse because she wanted to help people, but also because “I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and its disease process. I like that patients arrive sick and leave healthy.”
Each of the 96,000 state workers SEIU Local 1000 represents are feeling the impact of the coronavirus, but few are experiencing it like our medical professionals working at CDCR facilities across the state.
“Here in Lancaster, we’ve got at least 80 positive tests among inmates,” said Connie, who works as an LVN at CSP/Los Angeles County. “It’s grown from just 5 or 6 positives in a few short weeks.”
Connie’s concerned that the facility isn’t doing enough to keep both inmates and employees safe. “Management isn’t making protective equipment easy to access,” she says. “In some cases, employees had nothing, and weren’t issued masks and gowns unless they requested them.”
“We’re getting only one gown, one mask per day even if we work a double shift, and requests for more protective wear are falling on deaf ears. Even the disinfectant supplies have been removed in some areas, and getting those requires a special request to the warehouse. And when supplies do arrive they are given to management to distribute.”
Information regarding the crisis as it applies to prison operations is slow to reach the rank and file employees. “It’s been three weeks, and we still haven’t had a worksite meeting,” Connie reports. “We’re getting more usable information from colleagues than from management.”
Even the prison’s effort to impose safety protocols has a downside. Employees are screened at the entrance by answering a series of questions and checking for a fever. Add to that the expectation of social distancing, and employees are regularly late reporting to their stations, and being docked by management for it.
Connie’s job is as an LVN is as a “pill line nurse,” where she normally dispenses medications through a window from a secured area. Now, with the prison inmates on modified lock-down (for only meals and medication), she’s going in the housing units from cell to cell doing a so-called “podium pass” to medicate her patients. She stands behind a podium and hands the medication directly to inmates, increasing her exposure.
However, the safety protocol doesn’t seem to make sense, because after the meals and medication are given, the inmates are released into the yard for outside recreation and do not observe social distancing.
Overtime demands are also up as staff who were exposed while on duty are isolating at home or quarantined. Taken altogether, it makes the current situation the most challenging Connie and her colleagues have faced in her nearly 14 years of state service.
Throughout it all, she’s continuing to provide an essential service at a critical time. “We are on the job and helping people,” she says. And for that, we celebrate Connie and all the nurses who contribute so much to the health of our communities.