RN Deb Montgomery Balances Activism and Self Care

September 21, 2021

Florida RN specializes in helping new mothers.

RNFlorida.jpgRN Deb Montgomery was hired full-time by HCA Palms West Hospital in December 2019 and immediately joined 1199SEIU for the better pay and protections provided as part of a union.

She didn’t stop there. The lactation nurse immediately became active as a delegate, signed up to become a member of the 1199SEIU contract bargaining committee, and volunteered to serve as a member political organizer (MPO) for the 2020 election.

“I jumped into the deep end right away, because it really takes everyone making an effort every day to protect and fight for our rights,” she says. “If we don’t, we’ll get walked over by our employers or some politicians and others who are driven by unfair power or greed.”

Her first year on the job and in 1199SEIU was an historic challenge with months of contentious contract bargaining, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a high-stakes presidential election. These experiences reinforced her conviction that working people must stick together, stay active and focused on building a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

“Our strength is not just in the numbers, but in not letting up,” she says.

She is already looking ahead to the critical 2022 Florida election, especially the races for governor and U.S. Senate, in which voters can replace “cynical and self-serving” politicians Ron DeSantis and Marco Rubio.

“From bungling the pandemic at every turn, to suppressing and silencing voters, to serving up favors to big business and gun makers, plus so much more, failed politicians like these two show they don’t care for everyday Floridians,” she says. “We need real leaders who will serve the people, not take advantage of them.”

“I jumped into the deep end right away…If we don’t, we’ll get walked over by our employers or some politicians and others who are driven by unfair power or greed.”

HCA Palms West RN Deb Montgomery gets her COVID-19 vaccination.

In addition to her leadership on the job, Montgomery has participated in public communication efforts.

She authored an opinion column for the Palm Beach Post calling for the Florida Legislature to create a “People’s Budget” that properly funds and protects healthcare workers and patients.

Montgomery earned her nursing degree in 2017 as a divorced, single mom with three children, ages 11, 9, and 7. Her first nursing job was in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. She moved to Palms West as a per diem nurse for a short period before being hired full-time.

She chose her current role and lactation specialty after her experiences breast-feeding her own children.

“I breast-fed for more than eight years of my life with three kids, and I saw how little lactation support and expertise was available for new mothers,” she says.

She recently assisted in resuscitating and saving the life of a newborn while stepping up to provide coverage in the hospital nursery. It was a gratifying experience, but indicative of staffing shortages throughout the healthcare system. As the sole, full-time lactation nurse at her facility, new breast-feeding mothers were left without support while Montgomery filled in at the nursery.

It’s a common situation, she says, in which caregivers face chronic staffing shortfalls, as well as a lack of hazard pay, adequate benefits and many other necessities.

When she’s not fighting for herself and fellow workers, Montgomery exercises, runs or practices yoga daily to fight off burnout and stay balanced. She also enjoys crochet.

“They’re all about staying energized and focused, and so is Deb,” says her 1199 organizer, Boston Alexander. “When she starts something, she goes all in.”

1199 Magazine | July - August 2021