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National Nurses Week 2010 Profilies in Nursing: Pam Bearce, RN

Pam Bearce, RN


Hillsboro, OR – Sitting in the coffee shop at Tuality Hospital, Pam Bearce is easily distracted. "After 29 years working in the Birth Center, there aren’t many babies in this town that I didn’t see come into this world. In fact, after that long, I probably helped deliver most of the mothers of those newborns, too,” says Bearce, holding on to 22-week-old Tristan Rippy as his mother packs her things into an enormous diaper bag. Bearce was in the delivery room the day Tristan was born.

"Personally, I find it very satisfying to be a part of the birth process, and always have. I love my job,” says Bearce as she looks into a passing stroller. "I was there for this one, too,” she says, laughing.

Bearce was one of the last graduates of the Emanuel School of Nursing in Portland, in 1973. The program, which was a three year practical training program, closed in 1975. "The amazing thing about my education,” says Bearce, "is that, as a student, I was working at the bedside six weeks into the program, and during the last year of nursing school, I was working 35 to 40 hours a week at the bedside. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore.”

Bearce has worked at Tuality Hospital’s Birth Center since May of 1982, and although she is one of the more senior nurses on the unit, she is not the most senior. "There are nurses who have worked in that unit, caring for mothers and babies, for more than 35 years. When you sit in that room and look around at your colleagues, it is amazing to think that we have literally thousands of hours of experience in caring for patients. It is pretty humbling,” she says.

It isn’t her thousands of hours of experience, or her certifications in fetal monitoring and impatient obstetrics, that got Bearce invited to the National Labor Academy training in Chicago, May 10 – 13, 2010. According to Paul Goldberg, Assistant Executive Director for Labor Relations at the Oregon Nurses Association, "Simply put, Pam is an incredible leader and advocate for nurses. She is an ideal candidate for this training, and we are so proud that she has been accepted into this prestigious program.”

"In the same way that patients need nurses to advocate for them and their health, nurses need someone to advocate for their profession, their safety, and their health,” said Susan King, Executive Director of the ONA. "Pam is that advocate for the nurses at Tuality.”

Bearce has served on the Tuality Bargaining Unit negotiating team for the last three contracts, including as Chair of the Unit, is the Vice President of ONA’s District 24 (representing all nurses in Washington County), and has been a board member of the Oregon Nurses Foundation for the past 3 years. During that time, Bearce says, she is proud to have worked for improvements in working conditions for her nursing colleagues.

"In the last contract, we were able to agree that nurses should not be required to float to units where they don’t have experience or have not had the appropriate training. It might sound like a little thing, but nurses at Tuality and management agreed that it was in the best interests of the patients and the nursing staff. That was a really accomplishment,” says Bearce.

"As nurses, we are trained to listen to our patients, to focus all of our skill on improving their health, and on ensuring that they receive the best care possible. I feel the same way about nurses,” Bearce says, waving at a toddler in the lobby. "I want to listen to their concerns, improve their workplace, and improve communication between nurses and management so that we are all doing our part for our patients,” she says, picking up the toddler and greeting the parents.

It is that kind of thinking, says King, which makes Bearce an ideal candidate for the National Federation of Nurses Labor Academy. "The NFN is our national union, and the annual academy is an opportunity for nurse leaders from local hospitals, just like Pam, to learn how to improve their leadership skills from national experts.”

The Labor Academy will take place from May 10 – 13 in Chicago, and will provide a small group of nurse leaders from across the country with advanced training in leadership skills like contract negotiations, media relations, labor law, and prevention of workplace violence. "I am honored and delighted to represent Tuality and Oregon at the national labor academy,” says Bearce, leaving the hospital after her shift. As she walks towards the parking lot, she is flagged down by a young father pushing a stroller towards the hospital doors. Bearce beams, "Oh, I was there for this one, too!”

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