Letter from Lynnette Vehrs, WSNA president

Nurses are a powerful group. People trust us. Let’s do what we can!

This story was published in the Fall 2022 issue of The Washington Nurse.

Lynnette vehrs

When the 2023 legislative session starts in January, we may have NO nurses in the state House of Representatives or Senate. Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle) represented nurses for over 20 years and retired after the 2022 session. She was brilliant in the position of chairwoman of the Health Care and Wellness committee. Eileen will be truly missed.

Therefore, I turn to you. I want all of you to consider running for office. It is natural for nurses to assess problems, plan an intervention to solve the problem, and evaluate the outcomes. For those of you who ever thought you cannot hold public office, I am here to tell you differently.

Nurses have been successful in city council, county commissioner, state, and federal offices. Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, a 2022 inductee into the American Academy of Nursing, for example, is mayor of Burien. It is crucial that nurses become knowledgeable and active in the political process. Nurses are strong supporters of better healthcare access, safer environments, improved working conditions, and affordability.

When I was an instructor at the Washington State University College of Nursing, one of the courses included engaging student nurses in politics and policy. I would encourage them to get involved and educate themselves about the issues. Presuming that every student will become politically active immediately after graduation is naïve. Nevertheless, engaging nursing students in the political process before they start their careers may plant the seed of political awareness and activism further down the road. This in turn made me think, “Why don’t I run for office?”

This in turn made me think — why don’t I run for office?”

In 2016, I ran for state representative in Spokane. The incumbent was not running again. I immediately started to talk with people who knew a lot about running for office and building a campaign. I developed a steering committee and hit the ground running. I identified the issues I would run on: universal healthcare, reproductive healthcare for women, and safe environments. I did a great deal of research and read everything I could get my hands on.

My nurses’ association, WSNA, was my biggest supporter. They were right there to help me meet with various community leaders and get financial support. In all honesty, it was an exhilarating experience! I enjoyed meeting many people and learning about the community issues. I rang doorbells to introduce myself and ask for neighbors’ support. The most helpful was listening to their stories and worries. This shaped my concerns. I ran on the Democratic ticket as a nurse. The nurse part was well-received, but the Democrat — not so much. In Eastern Washington, and especially my legislative district, people are Republicans. I lost the campaign, but, wow, it was a great experience!

Currently, we have two nurses running for state office — Terri Niles in the 17th District (Clark County) and Duncan Camacho in the 18th District (Clark County). They have WSNA’s endorsement. If they are in your area, please visit their website and determine if you share the same values and important issues. If they are similar to your way of thinking, then try to help them with a financial contribution, help them talk to the public by doorbelling with them, and talk to your family and friends about them.

Nurses are a powerful group. People trust us. Let’s do what we can!

Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN
WSNA President