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Letter from Lynnette Vehrs, 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.

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

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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,

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Lynnette Vehrs