My Why: Stories
Janelle, SMG Nurse Executive
Recently, I had a friend ask me what my dream job was.
My eyes lit up and I responded, “I’m in my dream job.”
For me, my why is being able to make a meaningful difference in the things that I do every day. Early in my nursing career, I enjoyed serving patients at the bedside. I was able to see the improvements in the outward health and well-being of the person I was helping over the course of the day or days that I interacted with them. I can make a difference by connecting with a caregiver or patient on an individual level, but my passion grows when I’m able to create positive change on a level that is far-reaching, both in scale and in time. I realized that I was destined to utilize my leadership and collaborative decision-making skills to accomplish more in nursing.
Some may yawn at the thought of creating a policy, or adjusting a workflow, or convene a meeting to adjust a clinical protocol, but I recognize that the seemingly small improvements in the way that we provide care will affect thousands of patients. Many nurses may not dream of working in administration in the ambulatory setting, but this is exactly what drives me – the potential to make large-scale, meaningful change that affects clinical practice and populations of patients.
What an honor to be able to serve in this capacity! And with the caliber of colleagues with whom I get to share this improvement work! This is why I chose nursing. This is why I chose Swedish. This is “My Why”.
Amanda, RN BSN
I’ve been at Swedish as an RN for 13 years. Patients always ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ I answer, “Well I was born at this hospital, First Hill, 36 years ago.” Usually they laugh and joke, “You didn’t get too far did you?” We chuckle and I say, “I get that a lot.” Recently I had a patient and her husband asked me the same question and I told him. He really touched me because he said, “Oh, they saw you when you were born and said we’re keeping her! She is going to stay here and work because she’s a good one,” we laughed and he thanked me for doing a hard job. It made me think. I was born at Swedish. I volunteered at Swedish when I was in high school at Garfield. I was a nursing student at Swedish through Shoreline and lastly I had three kids at Swedish. It really has been a large part of my life in a positive way and I have been able to serve my community. I thought about how people comment that I didn’t get too far, but how do I know so much about the world? It’s because I have worked with so many different people from many cultures. I have stayed in the same place for all of these years and
I can differentiate a West African accent from an East African one, or a Filipino accent from a Taiwanese accent. It’s a beautiful thought that the world came to me so that I could enjoy all of the different cultures while still serving the community I grew up in and fulfilling my destiny.
Uma Pisharody, M.D.
I have wanted to be a pediatrician since as long as I can remember. Not just a doctor, but a pediatrician. I remember, when I must have been no older than five or six years old, my sister and I talking about how much we admired our own pediatrician - how we wanted to "be just like him," when we grew up! So, I went into medical school to become a pediatrician. I became a doctor so that I could advocate for kids. I love children, and I want to help them feel better. After completing my pediatric residency, I chose to further my career by becoming a pediatric gastroenterologist, primarily because I wanted to learn more about the impact of diet and nutrition on health and disease.
When I joined the pediatric subspecialty group at Swedish nearly ten years ago, I felt fortunate to work amongst a supportive group of like-minded professionals, surrounded by a team that strives to put the patients' needs first every day. I feel supported in advancing the causes that I feel passionate about, especially ways to bring about health and wellness, through diet and nutrition. Each day I come to work, I give thanks that I have been given the chance to combine my passions and interests through my career. I can't imagine a better job! At Swedish, I have been given the rare fortune of a career that gives me the daily opportunity to cultivate empathy and community connections, while striving to empower and enable children to lead healthier lives!
Elizabeth Meade, M.D.
I’m a scientist at heart – I majored in Molecular Biology, but found my real “why” in applying that science to caring directly for patients and families. I love that medicine allows the intersection of evidence-based data with the human art of healing and caring. I spend most of my days in the hospital caring for sick children on the Pediatric Unit and in the Pediatric ICU and each of those days truly feels like a gift. It is a staggering honor to have parents entrust in you with the care of their ill child and to be able to help that child survive and thrive.
Swedish Marketing Communications Department
Mary Beth Lowell
My Why: Nothing makes me happier than connecting with patients and caregivers and helping them tell their stories in the media or internally. I am a Seattle native and have always admired Swedish and it’s commitment to the community. I am inspired daily by the strength and tenacity of our patients and by the compassion and zeal of our caregivers. I finally feel that I am at an organization where I can use my skills and experience to do something that makes a difference every day. These days, the news is filled with so much that is negative and discouraging. To be able to share stories that truly inspire, create connections and provide hope in our community is incredibly rewarding.
Three of my children are Swedish babies so I was a patient before I became a caregiver. My middle daughter was unexpectedly born stillborn in 2010 and the way that my care team loved on her and on our family made an undeniable impact on this experience. They were amazing, crying with us as they took care of her (and us) with such love and tenderness. I will never forget how wonderful the caregivers were – with all three of my girls’ births. I have a true appreciation now of the fragility of life and the impact that a care team can have during very frightening and stressful times. Most of my career has been in the high-tech industry but, after my daughter’s death, I found myself wishing I could do something more impactful with my skills and experience. Coming to Swedish a few years later felt like coming home to me. It has been so rewarding and I am very grateful to be here.
My Why: I’ve held different marketing and brand positions at other companies and design firms. But my goal, for many years, even before getting to Swedish, was to work for a healthcare organization. I’ve managed marketing for gaming companies, high-tech and software companies; but nothing is more fulfilling than being involved in marketing health. It’s something we all want, and if our messaging reaches just one person who makes a different choice, or decides to get that screening and it saves their life—well, there just isn’t anything that I can think of that matters more.
My Why: I really enjoy raising awareness about all of the amazing happenings that take place daily across our system and if I ever need a good dose of perspective, I go take a walk around the hospital. I derive energy from building relationships, working with and learning from all types of people and I have that luxury every day at Swedish.
My Why: It’s fitting that I started my professional career at Swedish and am back at the place where I met so many wonderful people, many of whom are life-long friends and still working here. I come to work because of them – because of their dedication to Swedish – and the work they do daily to improve the health of the people in our community.
As I complete this exercise, I not only ask what is “my why”, but can’t help asking why so many people working here have chosen to stay for so long. I recently attended a service awards dinner honoring caregiver milestones – ranging from 15-year to 40-year anniversaries. After hearing from a few of those caregivers, they spoke the common words of coming to work day in and day out, year after year, because they not only enjoyed what they do, but who they do it with. And perhaps that is exactly what’s brought me back after all of these years.
Why do I come to work every day? Because there is mutual RESPECT for each other on this team. Because together I believe we can make an IMPACT on others in the work we do daily. Because we continue to serve and be a part of this COMMUNITY like we’ve been for over 100 years.
My Why: I believe everyone has a social responsibility to give back to their communities. It can be done in a variety of ways and often, it’s not in monetary form. We can lend our skills and knowledge, provide emotional support, or offer time helping others. I feel lucky to be at Swedish because working here allows me more opportunities to give back to my community and I get to do so every day.
My Why: I love creating stories that capture the spirit of our caregivers and highlight the inimitable ways they care for our patients.
My Why: I have the highest regard for healthcare professionals, it takes a special kind of person to do what our caregivers do every day. I am especially inspired by the work that is being done at Swedish for patients and families with behavioral health diagnoses. My oldest brother is on the autism spectrum and also suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. These types of behavioral health disorders not only affect the patient, but their families as well. Over the years, my family’s experiences with different behavioral health organizations have varied but my brother and my parents had their best experience in over 20 years of behavioral health treatment at Swedish Ballard last year. My brother received care that empowered him but also held him accountable for participating in his own recovery, and my parents received compassion and guidance from his care team. To a family dealing with crisis, on a long road to recovery, a little guidance and compassion can make all the difference in the world. I am so proud to contribute to an organization that provides such high quality physical and emotional care to patients AND families when they are at their most vulnerable.
My Why: Both my parents are nurses and like them I knew at a young age I wanted to help and care for others, and although I didn’t follow directly in their footsteps as a nurse I could tell my calling was healthcare. I knew after my first interview Swedish was the perfect fit for me because I immediately clicked with the team and felt like I belonged, and even though it meant moving across the country I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
My Why: I was once taught, and I believe it is true, that something as simple as a one-page, black-and-white flier can look either really ugly or really beautiful. My goal is to make every job, including a little flier, as beautiful as I possibly can. I believe that we all, often on a subconscious level, respond to good design. And I believe that people in the hospital who are ill or injured or in a weak and vulnerable condition are especially in need of good design.
My Why: I go to work every day working with wonderful people the make a difference in people’s lives. And I get to do it with what many consider a hobby! (Photography and Video)
I am very lucky to have people in my life that give it meaning. I have been very fortunate for the opportunities I’ve received and the people who have helped me along the way. Considering this job was originally supposed to be just for the summer, it amazes me how that turned into such a rewarding career.
Mary, patient care coordinator, SMG Behavioral Health – Psychiatry
It is incredibly rewarding when we get a call from a patient that has been struggling with a Behavioral Health issue and hear the hope and relief in their voice when they realize that their care team is committed helping them and to giving them medical care that could change their life. I wanted to be a part of that patient journey, and help to bring them peace of mind and to help them feel that they are truly cared about.
When one of our teen patients is struggling, and you hear that sigh of relief from their family when they realize their child they love so much is going to get help. When an adult/child returns to work or school after a behavioral health crisis and are able to live a good life again. When a teenager stops cutting and an adult doesn't tell us they want to die anymore. When I ask one of our Psychiatrists to go out of their way to squeeze in a patient during a busy day and they say "Sure, I can do that.” and the patient is overwhelmed with gratitude and relief. These moments make me proud of what I do, and I know we make a difference.
Pictured: Mary with her nieces and nephews.
I chose healthcare because our daughter passed away about 13.5 years ago of cystic fibrosis.
I know what it is like to be a parent with a sick child and not know who to turn to or what to do to help your child. I understand how scary it can be to be a parent, a mother and a caregiver.
After our daughter passed in 2004 I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field because of all the amazing healthcare we were provided throughout the years. Many nights I stayed up as our daughter slept while we were admitted to the hospital watching her sleep and praying she would be ok. During those long nights and weeks I encountered so many wonderful nurses, CNA’s and doctors that were so kind, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile to make me feel better, I’ll never forget that, it will remain forever in my heart.
I wanted to give back and have a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Pictured is Heather's daughter Miah.
When I applied for a job here at Swedish in August 1994 I was merely looking for something to do. Having just migrated here in the U.S. a month ago (July 1994), I was already restless and looking for some action. Not having any experience in the healthcare industry, more so in Nutrition, I told myself I'm just going to stay here for a few months and keep on looking for a job that is more my line. I did, but, things started to happen, I met a lot of people in my job (as a Nutrition Assistant) the sick, celebrated with new moms and new dads, caregivers, etc. and also cried when we lose someone. I began to love what I'm doing. It's that compassionate nature in me has started to come out and I realized that I care and I wanted to serve in any way I can. They said that food is the only kind of comfort a patient receive while in the hospital and I also realized that aside from the meds, etc. my stuff (food) is what makes our patients get better. I remember a patient in the old cancer care unit telling me that although she couldn't eat just visiting her and talking to her and asking her if she needed anything gave her pure joy knowing that somebody cares...that WE CARE
I stayed...and 23 years later I'm still here, now the operations manager and still loving and proud of what we do in Nutrition Services and at Swedish.
Sheri Feeney, chief financial officer
Sheri shares her passion for nonprofits and supporting Swedish caregivers as they strive to improve the health of our community.
I first came to Swedish in June of 2015, I was hired to open and manage the Starbucks at Swedish Edmonds. I brought with me 10 years of experience working in various leadership roles at company owned Starbucks stores as well as 15 years’ experience as a Child Care Director for the Boys & Girls Club. I have always loved the customer experience at Starbucks, both from a behind the counter and from a customers point of view, and I knew I wanted to bring that level of service into my store. I began hiring in September 2015 and by early October I had the 14 people that would be our core group. I am proud to say that 9 of the 14 people that I hired are still working with me today. I love that I have staff that almost 3 years later are still working just as hard building those relationships with customers and each other as they were on our first day open. We function as a team, and my team functions as a family. We pitch in to help each other out when needed and always take that extra step to make sure the store is in the best condition possible. My why began with wanting to deliver the best possible customer service that we could, to be the best we could possibly be and today my why is my staff. I am here because of the amazing team of people that I get to work with. I am so fortunate to have a group of people that love each other like family, challenge each other like siblings and come together as a team…always.
Margo Bykonen, chief nursing officer, shares her ‘why’
I think back 15 years and wonder where the time has gone! I feel fortunate to have such a long career at one institution in an area that isn't your typical hospital role. This tells me that Swedish does believe in our mission to be a part of new drug and device development. Our involvement in advancing medicine benefits our community, patients and our staff.
In my day-to-day work life I can safely say that my team of research staff and the providers who do research at Swedish are what motivates me to be a better manager and person. I could leave and work in a variety of other research focused institutions but I value my work at Swedish and what our teams bring to our patients. Every day I'm amazed by our hospital environment and our research volunteers they bring perspective to life that goes well beyond our Swedish walls!
Once upon a time, I was a divorced single mother, struggling to make ends meet and provide for my two children. Then one day, I received a call back from a Swedish recruiter and my life changed forever. By working for Swedish, I was finally able to have a sense of stability and pride in myself that I was able to fulfill my family obligations by myself. While commuting home from work, I met my now husband on the train - which eventually led to a Swedish baby and finally a home of our own. I will always be grateful to my employer, they gave me a second chance at personal happiness and professional success.
Chris Dale, M.D., chief quality officer, shares his 'why'
When people hear my job title, they ask "so what exactly do you do?" I have yet to find a simple answer. When I say that I make sure patients are served food within their medical dietary restrictions, it usually prompts more questions. I enjoy educating them about the complexities and challenges of healthcare food service. By working with the whole spectrum of Nutrition caregivers from our director to the cooks in the kitchen, the clinical team as well as the IS team that supports our software programs I can have a positive impact on the many areas of our department. I love leading and working on projects, problem solving and being a resource for our nutrition caregivers. I get the most satisfaction when I can make workflows easier and more efficient so they can provide safe and comforting meals and nourishment to our patients on all campuses. Another question I often hear is "Isn't it just food?" It's so much more than that.
I enjoy providing care to our patients when they are not feeling the best.
When I applied I wanted to work for an organization that would allow me to provide high quality, updated healthcare to all patients. I wanted to work somewhere where care did not feel like an assembly line. I want to make a difference in the lives of our patients by taking my time and really listening to them and only then, working together to improve each person's health in an individualized fashion.
Health care matters. The people providing the care need to care, I care. That makes a big difference its not just a pay check to me, its my purpose.
Evangeline and her family found support through Swedish
I have worked at Swedish First Hill in Quality & Patient Safety as a data entry clerk since 2015. I love my manager and all my coworkers. I’ve never worked in the health care field before and had no experience in medical records but I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to work at Swedish.
Being told that your husband has cancer for the second time is the most surreal experience. Time stops, voices become incomprehensible and the feeling in your gut is like falling from a 50-story building. My husband’s first cancer diagnosis was in 2008, and his second diagnosis was in December 2016. After his most recent diagnosis we saw a few oncology doctors, but after those discouraging meetings, my husband decided he would not proceed with treatment.
However, that changed when we met Dr. Mehmet Fer at the Swedish Cancer Institute. Dr. Fer met with my kids after my husband’s diagnosis to ease our fears and even gave them his cell number so we could call and ask any questions we had. He is truly is a passionate provider and the care he gives his patients, and his work in chemotherapy and radiation are excellent. The staff on Dr. Fer’s team are all so sweet, I will never forget their kindness.
I’m so grateful and blessed to be a part of this amazing place, our Quality & Patient Safety Department and our Medical Center at First Hill. I feel like I’ve found a home with my wonderful co-workers, our director Dr. Myint, managers Carrie, Joanie, and Niki. I am so thankful for all my colleagues, for the support, patience, listening, and prayers they provide. I am forever thankful that I had the chance to work with such amazing people.
Erin's team is her ‘why’
Over four years ago, I was given the opportunity to serve as nurse manager at Same Day Surgery (AKA South Tower Surgery) and I jumped at it!
The way our team works together and supports each other is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my career.
We have weathered significant changes over the years and through it all my team has continued to provide excellent care to our patients.
And no matter how difficult our day is, we can still find ways to share a laugh!
Jody is a caregiver, Summit Club member and a patient
I have been connected to Swedish in multiple ways; as the family caregiver of a patient (my husband), as a member of the Summit Club (Swedish Foundation), as an employee and recently as a cancer patient. The process has been intense, but the people that are involved make it as easy as possible.
Having been an "extreme" caregiver (my husband's doctors literally said he could die at any moment for five years), I understand from the top of my head to the tips of my toes what being a caregiver means. We are all called caregivers as employees of Swedish. What a PRIVILEGE we have to care for people at various stages in their life: birth, death, and everything in between. My husband spent the last week of his life at Swedish Cherry Hill. That was the BEST hospital experience we had in five years! He was treated in a kind, loving way by the staff and when he unexpectedly passed away, the nurses went above and beyond to help me deal with his death. I will never forget their kindness! Ever.
After he passed away, when asked, I donated our Lake Chelan waterfront rental property to a local Seattle company as an auction item for an annual fundraiser golf tournament to raise money for cancer research at Swedish. I had no idea that one day I would cross paths with Swedish again. I donate the property every year to the same fundraiser.
A few years later, I applied for and was offered a job working at Swedish! This is my all-time favorite place to work! I've never worked in a hospital before, but I look forward to coming to work EVERY SINGLE day! Just a few months after I started working at Swedish, I was diagnosed with cancer. My director is kind, compassionate, and more supportive than I could dream of. He has told me repeatedly throughout the treatment process "we are going to get through this together". He asks me continually "what can I do to help"? And his actions have matched his commitment. My work group even donated a month of their vacation time to me when I was in the hospital. Who does that?
Even though I work in an administrative capacity (rather than in caring for patients directly), I know that what I do contributes to the people who walk through the halls of our campus. I run into patients all of the time who need help finding their doctor/clinic, need a word of kindness, benefit from a smile, and just want to know that someone cares about them. Recently I met a man whose father was being treated at Swedish, he was stressed and overwhelmed. I had complete empathy for his experience. He needed a listening ear and a quiet place to relax while his sister spent time with his father. I took him to the quiet area behind the SOI Starbucks so that he could have a quiet spot to drink his coffee and unwind.
My cancer treatment has been top-notch. I have felt cared for and treated with such sensitivity, compassion, empathy, and generosity that I actually looked forward to going to all of my appointments (except the needles....I'm allergic to them!). They are true HEROES in my book!
I feel like I won the lottery! I work for the BEST director in the hospital. At the BEST cancer institute in the area. Helping people who are in the same situation that my husband was in. That I am now in. UNDERSTANDING the role that this hospital plays in the lives of those we serve in our community. I get to see babies in the hallway every day. And I get PAID to do this!
I want to be the President of the Swedish Medical Fan Club!
Karen, RN, supports and empowers diabetes patients
I have been a RN for the last 45 years and have been with Swedish Edmonds as a certified diabetes nurse educator for the last 27 years. I have loved being a nurse and have been so fulfilled in this profession. I have seen resources grow for patients with diabetes, however many patients are unaware of all the services available to them, including access to certified diabetes educators (CDEs).
CDEs help people learn and cope with this disease, so they may come to a place where they do not feel flawed because they have diabetes, but feel empowered and healthy instead. CDEs place great value on individualizing education for the person and listening to their stories to understand first, and then help to facilitate adjustment and good control in their lifetime. We stress small incremental changes being the hallmark of success over the long term.
Sara, RN, found her home in Seattle with Swedish
I have worked at Swedish Cancer Institute twice as a traveler since 2015. I love the people, the patients, my management and the city. I feel that I MATTER here. Last year, when I came for my second contract, I broke TWO bones in the space of one month. Rather than end my contract immediately, Swedish agreed to transfer my contract into oncology research, something for which I had already had an interest in but had not had the opportunity to pursue during the course of my career. Not only was my contract transferred, but the SCI actually collected money to help me during my recovery. My company was astounded, as very few travelers are given such an opportunity after such an injury.
I have told everyone who asks or will listen about just how wonderful this institution is. I am excited every day that I get to come to work and love seeing my patients. I am constantly smiling and thankful that I was able to get a permanent job here at Swedish. On a deeper level, I have struggled to find my "home" in my adult life. Personal losses and struggles have made it even more challenging the last eight or so years. And now, I can say that I have found my home in Seattle and that Swedish is a fundamental part of why that is the case.
I am forever thankful that I get the chance to live and work in the city and hospital that I love.
To see more stories of Swedish caregivers sharing their "my why” visit our careers website.