Among the tens of thousands of PEF members, nurses represent the largest title group. They work in very diverse settings across the state, like Hutchings Psychiatric Center.
That’s where Margaret Dobbins performs her job as a nurse 3, psychiatric. She is a member of the PEF Executive Board and council leader of PEF Division 301.
Dobbins began her career in state service in 1988 working with surgical patients at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. She left after two years to work as a traveling nurse, but returned in 2009 to work at Hutchings, where her sister, Kimberly Cass, is a social worker and a PEF member.
Dobbins said she quickly developed a deep love and commitment to serving the often vulnerable and fragile patients at Hutchings.
“I’ve only taken three sick days since I came here, because they need me,” Dobbins said. “They know they can tell me anything. I want to be here for them.”
In 2009, she started at Hutchings in the in-patient area as a charge nurse. She then moved to the outpatient area as a medication nurse in 2010. In 2013, the year she achieved her Batchelor’s degree in nursing, she became an RN 3 and was responsible for the orientations, education, and training of all new employees.
Dobbins further went on to achieve her Master’s degree in 2017 and her Doctorate of Nurse Practice in 2022. She took full advantage of all the education financial support that PEF and the contract offered, plus she accessed additional funds the state Office of Mental Health provided employees to ease the cost.
Dobbins is currently working in outpatient services and is responsible for supervising all the adult clinics, children’s outpatient clinics, children’s respite, and “ON TRACK, “which is an intense program for adolescents suffering from schizophrenia, where the goal is the use of early interventions to improve outcomes, such as staying in school, and maintaining employment.
Somehow, Dobbins also has found the time to take on a long list of union responsibilities including steward, council leader, labor-management chair, Executive Board member, convention delegate, and most recently, a member of PEF’s statewide nurses committee.
In her personal life, Dobbins said she enjoys “travel, cooking, reading, working out and playing with my dogs.” At one point in time this year, she had six dogs under her roof, some were hers, and the others belonged to her children.
When asked what she likes best about her union involvement, Dobbins said it’s “the PEF relationships.” She stated that PEF has given her a voice for the members, and she is deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the members.
When asked why she became a nurse, she chuckled, and said that her father was in the Air Force and her mom was a nurse, so she grew up wanting to be an Air Force nurse.
During the height of the pandemic, Dobbins said she often came in to work on evenings and weekends to administer COVID tests and vaccinations. While her work at Hutchings is hard and full of challenges, Dobbins said her core motivation for doing it is, “I love my patients. They are the reason I come to work!”