I Want to be a Part of Making Things Better Here

by Brianna McBride

I’m floor staff at Western Psychiatric Hospital. I’m from Philly but I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for the past 6 years since I came here for college. I was the class of 2020 and I graduated with a good job offer on the table, but then the pandemic hit. I lost that job, and I was excited when Western Psych hired me.

I could’ve easily worked at Target, but I wanted to use the skills I’d learned in school studying psychology. A lot of patients on my floor aren’t totally independent with toileting and showering, so I help them. I also run groups on coping skills, depression education and relaxation.

The pandemic has been extremely difficult. I’d work on a COVID unit with minimal PPE, and on the sixth floor, I’d get beaten up by patients a lot. Sometimes it’s because we’re breaking up fights, other times we are right in the line of fire. It’s really frustrating. Like a lot of other places we have a staff shortage, so it makes me feel like it’s harder and harder to keep myself safe.

Working in that environment means I’m constantly on edge, even outside of work now. I can never let my guard down. I get antsy with people walking behind me or in big crowds. Those are things that didn’t bother me before.

I try to roll with the punches, but there are so many real problems here. Whenever you voice a concern to management they say “we’ll look into it,” and then never really do anything. It feels like they just don’t care.

I’m a problem solver, and I would love to discuss things with management but it’s like talking to a brick wall.

When I first heard about unionizing efforts I was kind of leery, because I didn’t know how it would impact my job. But then a friend who worked on my floor was always talking about advocating for raises, and he led me to do more research and to find out what the union is doing and how you can be a part of it if you choose to. Now that I’ve talked to more people about it, I am not afraid.

It’s problematic that UPMC has been mistreating workers for so long. So it’s important to me that I have some kind of impact. I want to help encourage other people to step up. Because with a union, we could ask for more things and make sure they’re delivered, rather than being forced to accept a nonresponse. Also, unionizing gives you a support team because everyone is in your same boat. It can feel isolating, especially for newer staff that don’t know the ins and outs and make mistakes. I’ve been here a year and a half, and I want to be a part of starting to make things better.