Justin Kuunifaa: Nurse, Portland

At our clinic, we take care of people who are underprivileged and have nowhere else to go. From babies to seniors, we care for them all. As a nurse, in the SE Portland Health Center, I take care of all kinds of people who have nowhere else to go. From kids to seniors, we care for them and I am honored to do it. I immigrated from Ghana and I know what it feels like to be in their situation.

I work at this clinic because it is my way of paying back to the community that has welcomed me. Like all public health nurses, I could earn more in the private sector. I could snap up a hiring bonus and have a higher salary. I have OPSRP, the lowest level retirement benefit, but with the promise of that benefit and my health benefits, I can still provide for my family on this salary.

If my PERS benefits were to be cut further, I do not know if I could continue to work at the public clinic. I would have to leave behind the people I want to help. I know I would not be the only one to leave. How do state lawmakers think they can convince nurses to do this work if they cut benefits and don’t increase pay? It is already hard enough to hire qualified nurses in the public sector. Cuts to PERS will hurt not only my family, but my patients as well.