NEW YORK NURSE: December 2009
by Randi Hoffman
On Oct.23, Bernard Hunter was awarded the “Good Samaritan” award by the Parkchester, Bronx branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The honor for the registered nurse, who works in the hemodialysis unit at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center (TCC), is a result of tireless work for his community over the span of many years.
According to Hunter, this branch of the NAACP focuses on supporting voters’ rights, minimizing disparities in health care, and making sure everyone is accounted for in the census. The census will determine the amount of funding available for local programs. The award cited “the many hours of assistance and encouragement you have unselfishly given to others.”
“It was a big surprise for me,” Hunter said. “I had no idea. There are so many people out there who have done great things.”
Hunter also is a New York City Medical Reserve volunteer who is currently on standby to administer H1N1 influenza vaccines in the Bronx. “I’m just waiting to see what site they want me to go to,” he said.
Through his church, Hunter served as chair of the fundraising committee for the construction of the Grand Concourse Academy Charter School, working the phones for three years. The charter school opened its doors in 2004, next to the church, and currently has 250 enrolled students, from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Hunter was raised by his grandmother.
After graduating from Bronx Community College and Lehman College, he became certified in three nursing
specialties: critical care nursing (CCN); infusion nursing; and dialysis nursing (CDN).
He joined the dialysis team at Terence Cardinal Cook in 1981. It was a small unit then, with 13 dialysis chairs and three shifts of patients. Now there are 22 stations and four shifts of patients.
“The technology has grown tremendously over the years,” said Hunter. “Our outcomes are much improved. Now people can live on dialysis for 25 years. Things have really changed. The dialysis machines used to look like washing machines, today they’re the size of water bottles. We are able to tailor the dialysis to the patient’s needs, and people are living longer as a result.”
Hunter’s current job title is Quality Assurance Coordinator of Hemodialysis and Renal Services. “I do a lot of monitoring and I am also the anemia manager,” he said. It is his responsibility to check the patients’ blood counts and the condition of the equipment. “They frequently refer to me as CSI,” he said, “because I’m always out on the floor looking at everything.”
Hunter served as president of TCC’s NYSNA bargaining unit in the late 1980s, during the time that TCC was establishing its Discrete AIDS Unit. “It was an end-of-life unit then. It opened with 15 beds,” said Hunter. “At the time, there were labor-management sessions about the type of nurses appropriate for the unit, a lot of talk about staffing the unit, and about nurses going back and forth from the main unit.”
“We were always negotiating staffing issues and non-nursing functions,” Hunter continued. “I’m retired from that post now, but we consult sometimes. I’m always available. Last winter, I was out there at the candlelight vigil with my red umbrella and my flashlight. They’re such a nice committee. They work well together.
“Nursing is not just a job, it’s a ministry for me,” said Hunter. “I always knew what my calling was. I was always drawn to helping the most vulnerable people.”