New EvergreenHealth Monroe chief nursing officer Brenda West signed on this winter, with plans to finish her career at the medical center.

Her former boss, chief administrative officer Renee Jensen, had called her in to interview for the chief nursing job, the two having once worked together to revive a fading rural Washington hospital.

They plan to develop a collaborative atmosphere among the staff in Monroe through their renewed partnership.

“It’s just the right way to do things,” West said.

The Montana native received her first bachelor’s degree in health education at Montana State University, and then moved to California, “because it’s really cold in Montana,” where she attained a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Later she obtained master degrees in nursing and business administration.

She wasn’t far into her career when she figured out she enjoyed working in management. West has 25 years of experience, and has worked in a number of rural hospitals, including Roswell, New Mexico, one of the most remote cities in the contiguous United States.

After her husband convinced her it was time for cooler temperatures, the couple relocated to Portland, and she took a position at Providence Portland Medical Center. It turned out to be one of the most impactful posts in her career, she said.

It was there that she first worked as a Regional Lean Six Sigma Black Belt trainer, which is someone who specializes in leading complex improvement projects, according to the International Association For Six Sigma Certification, LLC.

After that it was on to Elma.

West’s husband said she shouldn’t take the job at what is now Summit Pacific Medical Center. It didn’t have the best reputation, and was struggling significantly. It was her first time filling a chief nursing officer role, and where she met Jensen, who was serving her first executive administrator role, she said.

Together they helped turn the dying facility into a nationally recognized care center. They also supported the construction of a new hospital.

“In her roles at Prestige Care and Summit Pacific Medical Center, West implemented initiatives focused on promoting patient-centered culture to reduce patient complaints by 50 percent, while also improving staff satisfaction,” according to an EvergreenHealth news release. “Additionally, she succeeded in decreasing nursing staff turnover by 30 percent and successfully directed change management initiatives during a $21 million hospital transition project.”

After Summit, West went on to become chief clinical officer for Prestige Care in Vancouver, Washington. She was responsible for the quality of care provided by a staff of 3,000 at 83 facilities spread throughout eight states.

West’s second most important career move was when she became certified as a life coach. The strategies she learned through the program, helping people realize they carry all the necessary answers to success by listening and asking the right questions, has proven to be an invaluable addition to her own approach, she said. Each step she took along the way has refined and improved her own management skills.

EvergreenHealth Monroe staff participate in daily “huddles,” meetings where everyone can get together and touch base on their plans and goals. West said she sees the employees, many of whom have been at the hospital for years, as wanting to do a great job.

Monroe’s medical center is an accredited, full-service, 74-bed public hospital district, established in 1960. EvergreenHealth serves nearly one million residents in King and Snohomish counties.

Valley General Hospital became EvergreenHealth in 2015.

Jensen has said she isn’t sure the facility would have survived had the Kirkland-based organization not acquired the local facility. It has been struggling financially, and services have been stagnant in recent years.

From what she has seen, West said employees are not used to being asked questions or for their opinions on how systems can be improved on, and what barriers keep them from doing so.

One of her first moves is to collaborate with the nurses to develop a philosophy that can be applied to how care is provided, and who is a good fit for the hospital. After a few months, people are already getting more comfortable with speaking out, she said.

“By the end of the year this will be an amazing hospital,” she said.