She waited to receive the award at the bottom on the ramp in a room full of her peers, clothed tables and plated dinners at Tulalip Resort Casino. The Executive Director of the Washington State Nurses Association took the stage to present the Leadership and Management Award to Western’s Sarah Bear—the RN-to-BSN program director.
“As an award recipient, I felt very much honored, from the readings and the elegance of the evening,” Bear said.
The award was for the tireless work that began in October 2016 between Bear and a team of colleagues with the nonprofit Action Now!, a partnership between statewide nursing programs. Action Now! is an effort to improve and strengthen the state’s nursing education.
“We tackled the issue of nursing faculty salaries at community and technical colleges,” Bear said.
Bear explained that salaries are low compared to industry wage and the need to address this issue came out of high vacancy and low retention rates for nursing educators. Bear said there have been schools that were unable to fully enroll their programs because of a lack of faculty.
“It was becoming a critical issue and we were able to educate people about the need.”
Her work at Action Now! is a driving passion, Bear said when you love what you do, it’s easy to make time. Bear and the team successfully advocated for nursing education.
“We had an unprecedented win. The governor signed a bill for $40 million for nursing faculty salaries at community and technical colleges in Washington State.”
Bear has been in nursing education since 2005. She is an active member of the Whatcom and Skagit communities. In addition to her work with Action Now! and the Council on Nursing Education in Washington State, Bear holds seats on PeaceHealth Medical Group’s foundation board and the WWU Academic Honesty Board. She said she felt that it is important for her to be working and contributing to the community she lives in.
Sarah joined Western in 2017 and immediately received support from faculty, as well as, the greater Whatcom community. “The hospital, the health department and many community agencies have been very supportive. They help us to get practice experience for the students, function as guest speakers and partner with us in curricular planning.” She has long-term goals of establishing a master’s program at Western.
Bear said her focus right now is on the accreditation visit in the fall and development of a master’s program.
Bear said receiving the award was a great honor, but for her, the work in advocating for nursing education and working to improve the system is a lifelong commitment.
“Now we’ll work on another need. Sometimes it’s just about getting the word out, being articulate in sharing it and staying at it.”