Peter Crooks has been a nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene for 20 years, and currently works in the Intensive Care Unit, but his career started long before that. After serving as a Marine in Vietnam, 15 years working as a sheet metal journey man, and raising five children with his wife, Peter sought a change in his career and enrolled in the nursing program at Lane Community College. As a nurse, a husband, a father of five and a veteran, Peter has been active in his community. He’s volunteered as a peer counselor at the Vet Center in Eugene and has been a 3 time delegate to the ONA Convention representing District 5. Last summer, Peter became a member of the Oregon Nurse Political Action Committee (ON-PAC) and Nurses United Political Action Committee (NU-PAC). As a member of the PACs, Peter travels to Tualatin once a month for meetings and helps make decisions about ONA’s political priorities, and regularly volunteers to help support political causes. Earlier this fall, Peter made phone calls to ONA members in support of Suzanne Bonamici’s campaign for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, and also called nurses in Ohio to help defeat the anti-union ballot measure that Ohio voters soundly rejected in November.
Here’s what Peter had to say about being a Nurse Advocate:
1. How did you decide to be a nurse advocate?
"I first got involved by submitting testimony on House Bill 3229, which was a bill in the 2011 Legislative Session that sought to close loopholes in current health care workplace violence reporting laws. The goal was to generate more data so that we could better understand the reach of the problem, and devise strategies to address it. As an injured nurse, I know the frustration that comes from the physical pain, emotional trauma, loss of income, mounds of paper work, and the disruption of one's family life. My last on the job injury came from an out of control patient and cost me more than 14 months of pain, rehabilitation, and two surgeries. This was a cause that was important to me personally, so I got involved. I advocate for my patients, why shouldn't I advocate for my co-workers? This work made me more interested in ONA’s political work and prompted me to seek a position on the political action committees, where we support candidates who support nursing.”
2. What advice would you offer to other nurses about getting involved in politics or policy?
"Just do it. Get out there, get involved. Talk with people about what you want to see changed. You may be surprised that they share the same view point or know others who do and are willing to spend time and efforts to get things done. Look at what can be accomplished with just making a few phone calls to people and discussing issues to vote on, stirring up passions in people to get them involved, reaching out to people they know. It's more powerful than you think, you are more powerful than you think, you can make a difference.”
3. What have you learned since getting involved in ONA’s political work?
"There is a lot that I need to learn. The political process is not that complex but it's all about networking. Alliances are important tools in politics. You need support from different factions to help your cause from time to time. Affiliations with strong labor unions help support the very core of the middle class the majority of the clients we serve in our hospitals are middle class or poverty level some through no fault of their own. Don't get me started on the one percent vs the 99 percent, that's a raw nerve.”
4. Why do you think it’s important for nurses to be active in politics?
"Nurses are natural multitaskers. We can take care of a sick patient, a grieving family member, and taking doctor's orders for patient care, all at the same time. Why shouldn't they take on Washington Politicians and demand more for patients, families and the American Public in the way of Health Care. Shouldn't the richest Nation take care of its baby boomers aging gracefully into the golden years? We have first hand experience with our health care system and advocating for our patients. This is invaluable in advocating for policy, and supporting politicians who support our causes.”