Letter from Lynnette Vehrs, WSNA President

This story was published in the Fall 2021 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

210915 vehrs

Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN, WSNA President

I am excited to begin work with our new execu­tive director, David Keepnews. Our six-month search, conducted with the help of a profes­sional nurse consul­tant, resulted in hiring an outstanding candidate.

David’s former involve­ment with WSNA, as a member of WSNA and our Legisla­tive and Health Policy Council while he taught at the Univer­sity of Washington in 2002 – 2004, will ease the transi­tion. Even after he left Washington state, David served as a consul­tant on staffing legis­la­tion and devel­oped white papers on the economic value of nursing and the Multi­state Nursing Licen­sure Compact.

David is also a strong supporter of our collec­tive bargaining program and comes to us with a strong commit­ment to the labor side of our profes­sion. His energy is palpable and his sense of humor refreshing. He will be starting as our execu­tive director Sept. 15.

With a new execu­tive director, we are saying goodbye to Sally Watkins. She has been more than generous in giving us a full year of continued, dedicated work even after she announced her retire­ment. Sally has been a mentor to me. She has been intuitive in her decision making and stead­fast in her commit­ment to WSNA. I have learned a great deal from Sally. In times of chaos and crisis, she is well grounded. We appre­ci­ated her steady leader­ship and advocacy for nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. She did an amazing job of standing up for nurses and making sure we were protected.

It has been an honor and privi­lege to work with Sally. She tells me that after a good rest and enjoying her family and dog, she will be back with us as a volun­teer. Thank you so much, Sally!

We are back at the bargaining table settling contracts that include some signif­i­cant wage increases, adjust­ments to salary sched­ules, signing bonuses, premium pay increases and increases in tuition reimburse­ments. These contracts also include stronger language around low census, staffing, workplace violence, sched­uling and breaks. I believe WSNA’s biggest accom­plish­ment of the pandemic is our unrelenting advocacy for nurses and patient safety. We were there to promote access to personal protec­tive equip­ment and timely COVID-19 testing. We continue to advocate for nurses on the front lines who are depleting their vacation and sick leave banks when a virus exposure occurs. I spoke with some outstanding nurses at Provi­dence Sacred Heart Medical Center when my daughter deliv­ered my grand­daughter. They shared their concerns about burnout and lack of paid time off to recharge. These nurses, like all of our nurses, are hard-working and dedicated to good patient care.

In August, the newly elected board met face-to-face — our first in-person meeting since December 2019. I’m glad we’ve had Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings avail­able throughout the pandemic, but there is nothing like being in the same room and seeing and hearing the body language and laughter.

I am looking forward to working with the new board and serving as your presi­dent for two more years.

Take care and stay safe,

Screen Shot 2021 10 01 at 12 25 17 PM

Lynnette Vehrs