There has been a changing of the guard at the B.C. Nurses' Union after long-serving president Debra McPherson lost an election battle to Gayle Duteil.

McPherson became a registered nurse in 1972 and got involved with the B.C. Nurses' Union as early as 1981. She was elected president in 1990 and is the longest-serving president in the union's history.

Gayle Duteil

New union president Gayle Duteil has been a registered nurse since 1983. (

Duteil has been a critical care nurse since graduating from Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing in 1983 and became active in the union during the 1989 strike.

It's part of a sweep of new people to the union's provincial executive council. Duteil says union members were looking for a change, but they owe a lot to the outgoing president.

"Well there has been no finer president, and I certainly have large shoes to fill. Debra has brought the B.C. Nurses Union into the 21st century," she said.

Duteil says McPherson strengthened the union by getting licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, and others on board.

The contract for the union, which has 42,000 members, expired Tuesday. Duteil says she'll work hard at the bargaining table to push for more manageable workloads.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union was officially founded in February 1981 when the Labour Relations Division of the Registered Nurses Association of B.C. broke away from the RNABC, which was then the licensing body for registered nurses in B.C..