Working Her Way Up
RN builds her skills, and career, with a little help from her partners
When Donna Fraser sees something that needs doing, “I like to get it done,” she says. Twenty-one years ago, she joined Kaiser Permanente as a clinical assistant, one of the first in the Mid-Atlantic States region in the urgent care setting. After a few years, Fraser led a couple of her colleagues in approaching their supervisor at the Camp Springs, Md., facility about moving beyond registration and clerical duties to assisting nurses with patients’ health care needs.
“I said, ‘We believe you can utilize us.’ I knew I could do so much more to help out when the nurses were busy.”
She found a training program that ran from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week. Meanwhile, she worked 3 p.m. to midnight shifts, mainly on weekends, and completed her courses in about three months. After struggling mostly on her own to pay for certifications in performing EKGs, phlebotomy and other tests and specimen collections, Fraser joined the facility’s fledgling class of urgent care technicians.
Hard work, good support
Today she is the lead RN at the Urgent Care/Clinical Decision units at the Largo Medical Center Hub, one of the newest facilities in the region. Fraser, a member of UFCW Local 400, says she owes much of her success to one of the Labor Management Partnership’s scholarship and wage replacement programs.
“I grew up here,” says Fraser. “It’s a great company if you work hard. You have to show up to win, do the best job.”
Trying to get an education while working full time is not easy, even for someone as motivated as Donna Fraser. That’s why LMP’s Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust was created, to support lifelong learning for union coalition-represented employees.
Wage replacement allowed her to take time off from her regular work schedule to attend classes, continue her employment, and keep up her clinical skills and knowledge. She’s taken advantage of the program twice since her first promotion, becoming an LPN in 2009, an RN in 2011. Fraser became a lead RN in 2013.
Jennifer Walker, the Mid-Atlantic States region improvement specialist who works with Fraser’s unit-based team, has seen greater benefit to the training. “Donna has become the person who organizes her group, serves as a support to all and keeps the team motivated,” Walker says. "And she has done this while working a full-time job and raising a family.”
But Fraser credits the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust program with giving her a sense of ownership and responsibility for her education and her career. “We did the scheduling,” she says. “The big difference was the empowerment our manager gave us. As long as we could find the backfill, we went to our classes.”
The keys, says Fraser, are a supportive supervisor who “believes in the partnership” and a willingness to look to the union as a positive force: “Sometimes when you are an employee, you think you just use unions for when you are in trouble.”
The greatest challenge is helping people see that if they are involved in the process, it will be easier to move up.
“You can always find places within KP that need your expertise,” she says.
Tips from a frontline career strategist
Donna Fraser has steadily climbed the career ladder during her 21 years at KP. She offers five tips for others who want to stay on top of their game:
- Communicate with your manager about your career advancement interests.
- Set your goals—don’t expect that things will to come to you.
- Have a support team. We all need encouragement when taking on a difficult challenge.
- Expect light at the end of the tunnel: Remember why you are making the effort.
- Inform yourself. Information about career advancement programs for most Union Coalition members is available at bhmt.org
Career advancement programs for SEIU-represented employees are available at the SEIU UHW-West & Joint Employer Education Fund.