Letter from Lynnette Vehrs, WSNA president

The profession of nursing is magical and challenging. I do not want people to exploit and take our nurses for granted.

This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of The Washington Nurse.

Lynnette vehrs
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.