Letter from Lynnette Vehrs, WSNA President

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2021 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

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I attended my first WSNA conven­tion in Seattle in 1981. At the time, I was working in Tacoma in an inpatient psychi­atric unit — my first job out of nursing school. I heard about the conven­tion because my facility was repre­sented by WSNA for collec­tive bargaining. It was from that gathering that I knew I wanted to be a part of this association.

The conven­tion was dynamic and full of energy. The speakers’ topics were innov­a­tive and challenging. Atten­dance was impres­sive, and I was exposed to movers and shakers” in the world of health care. I met nurses from all over the state; it was the first time I started networking. This was helpful in gathering infor­ma­tion about prospec­tive facil­i­ties where I was inter­ested in working.

In 1981, Judy Huntington was the presi­dent of WSNA. It was amazing how well that woman could speak! I recently visited with Judy to share memories of that conven­tion 40 years ago. After rereading the speech she gave to nurses in 1981, Judy exclaimed, Oh yes, it was a busy time!”

One of the issues brought forward to the House of Delegates (now known as the General Assembly) was about the entry into practice: Were we setting our goals for the RN entry level to be the baccalau­reate degree or the associate degree? Today, we have come a long way on this issue. In 2019, the Washington Center for Nursing reported that 58.9% of practicing RNs statewide have BSN degrees. WSNA began advocating stream­lining the process of AD-to-BSN educa­tion years ago.

Then and now, the Washington State Nurses Conven­tion is a time to come together and address the greatest challenges of the time and set a course for the future. As Judy said in her 1981 speech, As individ­uals, it is impos­sible to monitor and respond to all the challenges and changes impacting us daily. Yet, the very economy and survival of our profes­sion demands that we do. It is through our nursing associ­a­tions and our united efforts that we have the greatest poten­tial for power and influence.”

At this year’s Conven­tion, taking place April 28 – 29, we will zero in on the vital issues of today. We’ll consider the Board resolu­tion on diver­sity, equity and inclu­sion and have Dr. Ben Danielson speaking about creating a culture of anti-racism in health care. Keynote speakers and panelists will address the experi­ence and lessons of the COVID-19 crisis on nursing. Just as impor­tantly, we’ll hear about culti­vating kindness — something we all need right now after what we’ve been through in 2020!

Yes, it will be a virtual meeting, but that will not take away the joy of coming together, sharing stories and advocating for all of us! Our speakers and agenda are vibrant and inter­esting, and we are working to instill a sense that we’re all coming together to support each other and celebrate our accom­plish­ments. The Washington State Nurses Conven­tion will not be a disappointment.

I look forward to (virtu­ally) seeing you all April 28 and 29!

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Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN
WSNA President