The profession of nursing is magical and challenging. I do not want people to exploit and take our nurses for granted.
January 19, 2023
Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN, WSNA President
This issue, I reflect on my nursing career of 46 years and the many experiences I am grateful for.
I had a solid education in nursing at Washington State University that launched me into my first job as a psychiatric nurse in Tacoma. My three years in that position were a great learning experience for the remainder of my professional career. Following that, I accepted a job as a cardiac intensive care nurse. That change was a remarkable difference. It prepared me for my next job in Norway in an intensive care unit. Working in Norway was a blessing and one of the most difficult transitions to take on. I was caring for patients and interacting with other healthcare providers in a foreign language. Though I took some Norwegian classes for a year before living in Lillehammer, Norway, for two years, I was in no position to be fluent. That experience was highly challenging, but truly worth it. A lot can be said about voice tone and charades to engage my patients and families in empathic communications.
Upon returning to Spokane with my former spouse and three daughters, I made another challenging change in my nursing practice — I turned to the Providence Visiting Nurses Association. I am grateful for the knowledge I gained to help me feel comfortable with the autonomy one practices in home care. I am thankful for the support and experiences I had during my 18 years in home care. I appreciated our palliative care program. It is such an honor to be in the home with families while our client is dying, and I learned a great deal about the dying process.
It was during these 18 years that I learned about insurance reimbursement — the denials clients would receive for further care and/or procedures — and the injustice felt by me and my colleagues about many of these denials. This was when I studied other countries’ healthcare systems and learned about universal healthcare. For the last 20 years, I have been concerned about the many Americans who have gone bankrupt or died due to the expense or lack of healthcare.
I had always wanted to get my master’s in nursing so I could be a hospital nurse in the education department. That, too, took a turn. I graduated from WSU with my master’s and was thankful to have a teaching position with student nurses. I appreciated the challenge my students gave me and the new friends I made with the other faculty and administrative personnel. Due to my career experiences, I was able to teach not only the signs and symptoms of illnesses, but also leadership skills and universal healthcare. Nursing students have great energy and an appreciation for learning that I find is contagious.
Along the career pathway, I was active in my professional association, the Washington State Nurses Association. These pathways led me to experience collective bargaining, legislative issues in support of RNs, and leadership tools. I am profoundly grateful for those nurses that encouraged me to expand my horizons. I am appreciative of so much.
Early in my career, I wanted to be president of WSNA so I could advocate for my colleagues. The profession of nursing is magical and challenging. I do not want people to exploit and take our nurses for granted. I want talented and intelligent men and women to practice nursing.
Soon, I will be ready to pass the baton to younger, well-qualified nurses.
Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN