GET TO KNOW A NURSE: RN Toni Baldie is Continuing the Legacy in a Family of CaregiversOctober 30, 2019
Toni Baldie comes from a family of smart healthcare professionals. The RN in the intensive care unit of HCA-affiliated hospital Northwest Medical Center in Margate has a sister who is a doctor in Jamaica and her mom works in a hospital in New York. Her Auntie Precious is a nurse in South Carolina and several other relatives serve in the healthcare field in the U.S. and her native Jamaica.
She says caring for others is more than just a family tradition, but rather a broader cultural trait.
“You see a lot of Jamaican faces as nurses, doctors and caregivers,” she says.
Toni came to the U.S. when she was 19 and graduated from Nova Southeastern University’s Nursing School in 2012.
The self-described “introverted chess nerd” lives in Boca Raton and is an avid reader. Currently she is in the middle of “Talking To Strangers” by Malcom Gladwell. She’s also in the process of applying to earn her master’s degree as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and hopes to run clinics here in Florida and Jamaica.
“I feel strongly about mental health. We as a society often hide or ignore it, which makes the problem that much worse,” Toni says.
Working in the ICU she often sees patients come in under the Baker Act who are agitated and violent. During her seven years working in healthcare, she’s been hit, kicked, spat upon and strangled with her own stethoscope. “Unfortunately, this is common for healthcare workers. Being assaulted shouldn’t be a regular part of our jobs.”
Preventing workplace violence is one of the issues that Toni is addressing through her leadership in 1199SEIU. Another is safe staffing levels.
“Staffing is a safety issue for both healthcare workers and patients. Patients, especially in an ICU, need one-on-one attention at these most urgent moments,” she says. “As caregivers, we’re committed to providing the very best care patients and their families deserve.”
Toni serves on her Labor Management Committee because as she puts it, “I don’t just want to talk, I want to do. “
She learned about the strength of unions and collective bargaining from her mother who works in New York, where laws strongly support workers’ rights for a quality work environment and the opportunity to support their families.
“My mom instilled core union values in me when I was young,” Toni says. “She preached to work hard and be the best at whatever you are doing. If you’re frying an egg or flipping a burger, be the best at it. She also taught us workers need to stand up and stand together to receive fair wages and benefits from giant companies that are focused on profits.”
While participating in her first labor-management bargaining session, Toni learned this difficult lesson. “I cried afterwards because of how hard it was, when we were asking for so little.”
She also believes healthcare workers need better benefits in order for hospitals to attract and retain the best employees, and noted that HCA-affiliated hospitals did not follow through on the announcement to share with workers some of the $500 million windfall the company received from Trump’s rich-get-richer corporate tax breaks.
To help create a fairer system in Florida and nationally, Toni has become active in 1199SEIU political efforts to elect leaders who will truly advocate in the best interests of workers and patients, and promote policies to protect and improve our communities. She recently joined South Florida students and a contingent of 1199SEIU members at a ”climate strike” demonstration in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s time for everyone to step up and conserve our planet for future generations.”
Regarding worker rights, she says the vast majority of Floridians would be much better off if the laws here were more like those that serve her mother in New York. Her mom, also a member of 1199SEIU, earns better wages and benefits because the leaders and laws support the power of workers to unite and negotiate together. Toni is fighting for the same thing in Florida.
“I’ve been lucky to have my mom and family in healthcare share so much compassion and wisdom,” says Toni. “One of the most powerful results is that I feel complicit in a problem if I’m not actively and passionately working to solve it.”