Janell Kanyer

As a young girl growing up in Roslyn, Janell Kanyer dreamed of becoming a nurse. But as Kanyer would discover, dreams and reality don't always align when we think they will.

Dogged by personal insecurities and questioning her own ability to be successful at anything, Kanyer graduated from high school and went on to beauty school, not college.

When she passed her state boards and her license arrived in the mail, “I didn't believe it,” she says. Giddy with excitement, Kanyer did something she never does: picked up a hitch hiker who, concerned about her driving, insisted on being let out two blocks later.

Kanyer went on to marry her high school sweetheart Dan, forged a career in cosmetology, then cut hair at home after the couple's two sons, Zane, now 34, and Cole, 31, arrived. One day a friend, Roslyn's Susan Johnson, rekindled Kanyer's dream.

“I was cutting her hair and she asked if I was going to do that the rest of my life,” Kanyer recalls. “I said that I'd like to go to nursing school but I'd be 40 by the time I got out.”

“You're going to be 40 anyway,” Johnson observed.

Thus prompted, when her youngest son started kindergarten Kanyer signed up for one night class at Central Washington University. The rest is history. She finished her prerequisites at CWU and went on to nursing school in Yakima.

Along the way, Kanyer became a Hospice volunteer. Her first patient? A mortician in Cle Elum. The relationship proved symbiotic. She was taking courses in anatomy and physiology; he quizzed her on them. “So it took his mind off dying and it helped me,” says Kanyer who finished her studies, passed her state boards and became a Registered Nurse.

For a year she worked graveyard shift at KVH Hospital before a position with more family-friendly hours opened up for her at the KVH Family Medicine-Ellensburg.

Now in her 21st year at the clinic, she wears two hats: nurse for Dr. Don Solberg (who works two days a week at the clinic and the rest of his time as Chief Medical Officer at KVH Hospital) and Coumadin Clinic nurse, monitoring patients who are on blood thinners. 

At 60, Kanyer says she's where she was meant to be and doing what she was meant to do. “If I can make someone feel comfortable with the knowledge we're going to be there for them, that's all I need. Every day is rewarding.”

And some days are simply unforgettable.

Case in point: the day three years ago that a pharmacist called the clinic about Julie Chandler, a single mother of three and a student at Central Washington University who had a brain abscess. Hospitalized for three and a half weeks at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, she came home with a PICC line in her arm and directions for self-administering her medications by IV. But Chandler had confused her medications and the pharmacist was concerned.

Kanyer, the clinic's triage nurse that day, called Chandler.

“She was panicked,” Kanyer recalls. “I calmed her down. She was doing this alone while taking care of three kids and going to school. My heart went out to her. I wasn't going to let her be alone.”

For the next two weeks, Kanyer called Chandler twice a day. Over time, the calls grew less frequent as Chandler, who was on IV therapy for several months, grew stronger. “She's not my regular nurse but she gave her cell phone number and home number,” Chandler says. “She didn't have to do what she did.

“She's like an angel. I'll never forget it.”