Support Striking Kaiser Therapists

Meet Valerie Thorp, a caregiver who goes the distance

NewsApril 27, 2022

Valerie Thorp, an NUHW steward at Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Santa Cruz, credits her athletic endeavors as a swimmer and runner for helping define her career path as a physical therapist.

Growing up in Camarillo, California, Valerie was never far from the water.

Valerie competed in swimming meets and cross-country races in high school, and swam as an undergraduate at Concordia University in Irvine. Today she participates in open water swims in the ocean and lakes as a member of Santa Cruz Masters Swimming and runs three or four days a week. She recently ran the Napa Marathon.

“It’s fun to have races or events to have that motivation to train a little bit harder,” she said.

The experience of teamwork as a runner and swimmer informed Valerie’s decision to become a union steward last year.

“I think it helps when you enjoy being part of a team or a group that works towards a goal and solving problems,” she said.

This is the first time she’s part of a union and working in unison to improve workplace issues is something she finds rewarding and useful.

“It’s great to know you’re not in it alone. You can bounce ideas off or pick each other’s brains,” she noted.

Valerie also likes the fact that there is a contract that spells out workplace issues that employees in other facilities must face on their own.

“It’s nice to have clear expectations for raises each year and those things have been pre-determined and I don’t have to advocate for myself,” she said.

But there is always room for improvement, and Valerie and other stewards have been doing just that, working on streamlining the patient hand-off process when co-workers go on vacation to make the process less disruptive.

“Sometimes if someone takes time off, their patients aren’t pre-assigned to another therapist and get placed on a therapist last minute, and it’s hard to accommodate a bigger caseload for the day,” she explained.

Valerie and the rest of the stewards at VNA Santa Cruz are teaming up to solve this and other issues to improve working conditions and patient care.