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Yvonne Ribi

04.02.2022 – SUSANNE WENGER

Yvonne Ribi is managing director of the Swiss Professional Association of Nurses (SBK-ASI). Ribi recently pulled off a coup, when voters approved the SBK-ASI’s “Strong healthcare” initiative – the first time that a trade union proposal has succeeded at the ballot box. This victory was the work of many, Ribi emphasised. Indeed, rarely has there been such a groundswell among Switzerland’s nurses – of whom women still account for over 80 per cent. Ribi nevertheless played a big part. History shows that acute staff shortages always precede improvements to the health system – the 45-year-old from Thurgau skilfully exploited this. The lack of nurses has become painfully apparent during the pandemic, although Ribi’s mission dates back long before then. When she took on her leadership position in 2013, Ribi brought a new combative spirit to the SBK-ASI, an organisation that has been around for over 100 years. “Striking is not part of our DNA,” she once said. “We feel we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that no one suffers.” Affable and well briefed, Ribi chose the political route. As a qualified nurse, she had experienced the constant pressure of hospital work herself. After studying management, Ribi said goodbye to the wards and started lobbying instead. Despite initially banging her head against the parliamentary brick wall, she never gave up. In 2020, readers of the Medinside industry portal voted her the second most important person in Swiss healthcare. Ribi made the country realise that rather than "nurses" her erstwhile colleagues are highly qualified healthcare professionals on whom Switzerland depends. Voters will always remember this when it comes to the crunch.