Registered Nurse | AFGE Local 96
Ravonne Pleasant is a registered nurse for the VA and a member of AFGE Local 96 in St. Louis, MO. Pleasant began her nursing career in 1993 as a licensed practical nurse at the VAMC/Jefferson Barracks Division. This posting marked the beginning of a long, eventful nursing career for Pleasant. Since the then, she has held upwards of seven different nursing positions with the VA. While working her way through the ranks, Pleasant obtained her registered nurse degree and attributes much of her knowledge to the nurturing staff she’s had the privilege of working with. “Throughout my tenure at this VAMC all mentors/preceptors in my various positions have been caring, compassionate and shown a willingness to share knowledge as well as care for our veterans,” said Pleasant.
Throughout her career, Pleasant not only became a better professional, but also gained a stronger appreciation for our nation’s veterans.
“During my tenure in psychiatry I became familiar with veterans from the Vietnam era and learned firsthand the effects of war and the impact it had on our veterans, [i.e. post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction] during many group counseling sessions,” said Pleasant.
Pleasant takes her career very seriously, as serving America’s veterans strikes a personal cord for her. “I count it a privilege to continue to service our American heroes in the capacity as a registered nurse. Both my father and brother are veterans and it has always been my decree to treat each veteran as I would desire my family to be treated,” said Pleasant.
Registered Nurse | AFGE Local 96 President
Diane Clines is a registered nurse and president of AFGE Local 96 in St. Louis, MO. Clines’ medical background runs in her family, dating back to her grandmother who was a LPN at the Koch Hospital in St. Louis. She tells of how her grandmother would share stories of caring for her patients, “I would listen to her many stories…it intrigued me,” said Clines. After graduating high school Clines decided that she too wanted to be a nurse and began nursing school. “I knew that I wanted to do something of value…it sounded challenging and exciting,” said Clines.
After graduating nursing school in 1977 Clines went on to hold a number of different nursing jobs at public and private hospitals before landing at the VA. Unbeknownst to her, the VA is where she would find her home. “I have been at the VA now for 28 years and 6 months. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be here as long as I have,” said Clines.
She began her stint as an emergency room nurse, where she took her duties very seriously. “I took pride in making sure [my patients] got in and stabilized as fast as possible,” said Clines. “It was often busy, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time.”
Clines went on to hold a number of other positions at the VA and earned her Master of Science in Nursing and certification as a family nurse practitioner. In 1999 she made the decision to step forth and work with the union.
“I intentionally choose to do this because I saw that employees did not know how to navigate the system and were often given misinformation. So, I accepted the calling to guide the employees through knowing their rights and assisting them in invoking those rights,” said Clines.
Ultimately, Clines describes her career as being educational, rewarding and fun. “Overall, the profession has been good for me and to me. I know that I have made a difference in the lives of patients and employees, and that makes it all good for me,” said Clines.
Registered Nurse | AFGE Local 3930 President
Kathleen Pachomski is a registered nurse and president of AFGE Local 3930 at the Memphis VA Medical Center. As a registered nurse for more than 20 years, Pachomski is proud to serve our nation’s veterans and help clinicians at her facility gain a strong voice at work. After serving 13 years in the United States Navy, Pachomski knew she wanted to continue her career in service and began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
During her time in the Navy, Pachomski was one of the first women to serve aboard the hospital ship, USS Sanctuary (AH-17). With her skills and training, she later became a registered nurse at the VA. From her military and federal government service to working full-time as a union president, Pachomski says these job functions are similar in nature because of their commitment and orientation to service.
“I have incorporated all my experience to ensure that we do what we can for those we serve,” said Pachomski.
As president of AFGE Local 3930, Pachomski works tirelessly to represent nurses and clinicians at the Memphis VA facility in nearly every aspect of the master agreement. The Local is pre-decisionaly involved in matters that affect nurses at the facility and strongly believes in advocating for the fair and equitable treatment of all employees.
“Happy employees are dedicated employees,” said Pachomski. “We must be advocates for civility and success of all workers. Every employee brings value to the work place.”
Pachomski, who also is a disabled veteran, knows the value of quality care and the importance of supporting America’s veterans who have sacrificed for their country. Nurses and medical professionals at VA hospitals are on the front lines of patient care and rely on a strong voice at work to support the needs of both veterans and VA employees.
Pachomski has enjoyed her career at the VA and partakes in many of the activities the Memphis VA hosts in honor of National Nurses Week.
Registered Nurse | AFGE Local 3884
Debra Cederholm is a registered nurse and president of AFGE Local 3884 in Fargo, ND. Debra has been an AFGE member since she helped charter her Local in 1981. In her 30 years of service to the union, Debra has fought to extend collective bargaining rights for both the professional and wage-grade employees in the Fargo VA Health Care System.
Cederholm is adamant that AFGE members stand together in their fight to extend collective bargaining rights for all employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under current law, VA health care professionals classified as Title 38 employees do not have the same rights as their counterparts in the Department of Defense or Bureau of Prisons to use their bargaining rights to enforce pay laws and regulations or negotiate for fair pay policies.
According to Cederholm, in 1991, Congress expressed its clear intent to provide equal bargaining rights to Title 38 health care professionals by adding Section 7422 to Title 38. The Bush administration severely weakened those rights through an overly broad interpretation of the bargaining exclusions to the law.
“We have employees within the same bargaining unit, who cannot exercise the same rights as their brothers and sisters in the union, because of this arbitrary interpretation of Title 38,” said Cederholm.
“We have faced important challenges before,” said Cederholm. “We know that power concedes nothing without a fight. We will continue to fight and advocate on behalf of federal employees and veterans. When we stand together there is not anything we cannot accomplish.”
Debra Cederholm also applauded AFGE for its continued participation in National Nurses Week.
Staff Nurse | AFGE Local 2400
Lisa Hartman is a staff nurse and holds numerous positions within AFGE, including executive vice president and legislative action coordinator of AFGE Local 2400, and vice president and legislative action coordinator of AFGE Tennessee State Council 61. During an era when ideologues worship at the altar of privatization and constantly disparage public employees, Lisa Hartman is a stellar example of public service. For more than three decades, Lisa Hartman has served our nation’s veterans at the Tennessee Valley Health Care System’s Nashville Campus.
“I started my career in the VA as a ward clerk 33 years ago,” said Hartman. As a ward clerk Hartman was able to participate in a program known as Upward Mobility, which allowed her to attend nursing school at Belmont University and promote her career. She was licensed as a registered nurse in 1987.
When asked why she’s remained with the VA for so long, Hartman explained, “I have invested my life here. Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed their lives, and in many cases, their futures in service of our country. We all have an obligation to serve. Working at the VA and committing to its improvement has been my life’s service.”
As a charter member in 1997 of the Title 38 Professional Unit of AFGE Local 2400, Hartman is proud to note the many victories AFGE has won in its fight to represent working people and improve the lives of veterans. She is empathic, however, that more must be done.
“We have made tremendous strides at the VA, but current staffing levels jeopardize our progress.” said Hartman. “We are working to improve patient care and be responsive to the millions of veterans who rely on the services of the VA. We cannot, however, continue to ignore woefully under-resourced front line health care providers.”
In addition to the staffing shortages, Hartman notes that the overly broad interpretation of Title 38 handicaps front line employees’ ability to use their collective bargain rights to improve patient care. “Legislative action to correct these problems must be passed. We must not ever fail to lobby Congress to pass full collective bargaining rights legislation for our future and the future of our veterans!”
Bureau of Prisons Nurse | AFGE Local 3947
Sandra Parr is a nurse for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). As a BOP nurse, Parr faces challenges virtually unseen by most other nurses. For the past 12 years she has bravely put her personal safety on the line to provide primary care for inmates housed in federal prisons.
“Working with convicted felons is very different than working in the private sector or the VA hospital; first they are criminals and can become belligerent or violent. You always have to stay alert to your surroundings, yet at the same time we are their primary caregivers as they do not have family with them.” said Parr.
Parr always knew she wanted to make a profound difference in society. “I have always looked for new challenges and wanted to make a difference in others’ lives.” said Parr. “Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be a police officer or a nurse.”
Parr’s duties range from, passing medications, assisting with wound care, hospice care, emergency response to medical issues, to supervising inmates and all correctional duties. In her work, she must look past who the person is in order to provide them adequate and efficient care.
“Working with inmates allows me to help them improve their life and well-being, at the same time helping them rehabilitate back into mainstream society. Although very challenging at times, working for the BOP can be very rewarding.”
Parr plans on celebrating National Nurses Week by spending extra time with her colleagues and hosting potlucks to celebrate the important work nurses do on a daily basis.
Nurse Practitioner | President AFGE Local 0342
Adrienne Woods is a nurse practitioner at the Wilmington VA Medical Center in Wilmington, DE. She serves Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom patients in the medical center’s post deployment team and also follows poly trauma patients and consults. For more than 30 years, Adrienne Woods has strived to meet and treat the physical and mental traumas suffered by our nation’s veterans.
“Our young men and women have made a tremendous sacrifice in service to this country,” said Woods. “When they return home, it is our duty to meet their needs and treat the wounds of war, whether they are seen or unseen.”
“In spite of staffing limitations, we do our best to provide care for the waves of veterans who have returned from our most recent wars, as do colleagues in VA hospitals and health clinics across the country,” said Woods.
In addition to her work as a frontline health care provider, Woods also serves as AFGE Local 0342 president. Woods was a founding member of the Local, which was formed independently, but joined AFGE for increased bargaining power. “Our goal as a Local is to advocate for our bargaining unit members and to be an example of professionalism,” said Woods. Under her leadership, the local is continuing to add new members and improve the lives of working people in Wilmington, DE.
As a member of the AFGE Nurses Steering Committee, Woods is primarily concerned with the overly broad interpretation of language in Title 38, which limits VA employees’ collective bargaining ability. By using an overly broad interpretation of Title 38, VA management has limited bargaining over even routine workplace issues.
“I recognize that our greatest strength is to be able to speak with one voice across the country and throughout the agency,” said Woods.