For Nevada Psychiatric Nurse, His Union Helps Him ‘Concentrate on Caring for People’

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Alonzo Thornton is a third-generation Army veteran. In 1984, he joined the Army as a combat medic.

“In the military, we had people who watched our backs,” he says. “It was a system where I would watch your back, you would watch mine. If I had to rescue someone, then I knew I had a soldier back there who would make sure I was safe.”

Today, Thornton keeps people safe for a living. He is a psychiatric nurse in Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Disability Services Division, where he cares for people with intellectual disabilities.

“You want the best for them even though they may not know what that is,” he reflects. “You have to keep your eye on the ultimate goal of making sure they’re safe and well.”

Thornton is a winner of AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

To Thornton, his work as a psychiatric nurse is more than just a job, it’s a calling.

“I love public service, I love knowing that everybody can be helped by me,” he says. “Every time I see someone prosper because of something that I did, or if I see another person getting the health care they need because of my encouragement, it just makes me know that this was worthwhile, and any trials that I’m going through … it’s worth it.”

He stays focused on the job, Thornton says, in part because he’s a member of a strong union, AFSCME Local 4041 in Nevada. Just like in the Army, where other soldiers had his back, his union has his back now.

“My union grants me that security,” he says. “I can concentrate on caring for people.”