ONA: 40 Years of Unity and Advocacy is a visual, interactive exhibition commemorating ONA's 40th anniversary. This is the web component of the visual display, which will be travelling around Ontario from December 2013.

Susan Crilly

“I am a member who remembers...”

May 31, 2013

I remember voting for a union in 1972. I had just graduated and started a fulltime job as an RN. Let me take you back briefly to how things were then.

We worked two out of three weekends, and on all three shifts. I can recall my fiance asking me what my salary would be. My response was “I don’t know..whatever nurses make!” At that time orderlies with only weeks training and no accountability or assignment made more than the nurses. Our uniforms were white dresses and white stockings. We wore our hats and proudly displayed the black band identifying us as registered nurses.

There were no such thing as lifts, incontinent pads or attends. We only had draw sheets and a few rubber sheets. Needless to say we changed many beds and gloves were only worn for sterile procedures. Protecting ourselves wasn’t really a consideration. We pulled patients up in bed and out of bed using our own bodies as leverage. Personal care…no gloves And do you believe we had to offer backrubs to all patients at bedtime?

If you were a female patient 45 or over chances are you were on Valium. There was little understanding of womens health issues.

They tried to tell us we didn’t really want a union, as they were only after our dues. But the vote happened and ONA began its work of representing the Nurses of Ontario and advocating for better health care for Ontarians. Our first contract gave us a nice salary increase.

We worked fewer weekends and shifts and schedules began to improve.

We went through the spread of AIDS before it was understood, and did the same with SARS. ONA has always been there advocating for and protecting us in ways I am sure they could not have foreseen, and they continue to take on new battles to this day. Our uniforms have changed and how we work has changed many times over. But the main focus of our work continues to be driven by compassion and advocating for the sick to achieve the best outcome using all the resources available.

Today we have so much support and better working conditions because ONA has worked so hard to “Care for the Caregiver”.

I am a member who remembers. I was on the Membership Team for OT and that is when I learnt first hand the high calibre of all the staff and professional people who make up ONA. Thanks to all the tireless work of the many Nurses who strive to uphold our contracts and protect our rights. Our working conditions today are what they are because of you. An old saying comes to mind “You”ve Come a Long Way Baby”.

  So THANK-YOU..THANK-YOU ONA and Happy 40th!!

Yours Truly Susan Crilly RN
Lakerige Health Oshawa
Local 051