April 11, 2008

Illness leads to path of nursing and activism

Source: RA 2008

While Cora Shillingford lay gravely ill in a hospital bed, she received care from nurses and witnessed how they were helping other patients all around her, regardless of color or age.

She decided right then to become a nurse herself.

"I believe this is what I've been called to do," said Shillingford, who was honored as the Health Care Professional of the Year by NYSUT at Friday's RA.

As a former teacher in the Caribbean, Shillingford already knew that she loved being around people. She became a registered nurse in 1982 and currently works

as a visiting nurse in New York City.

Her job includes health teaching, counseling and providing skilled nursing care as a member of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, with the UFT, where she is chapter leader to the 2,500 professional nurses represented. She works with her colleagues on professional issues and concerns.

Part of realizing her dream, she said, was becoming involved with NYSUT, "truly a union of professionals," which provides strength and knowledge.

"Our union gives us opportunities," she said, mentioning professional development workshops and how locals get involved in the legislative processes.

To her colleagues, she said, "We must be 100 percent of ourselves every day."