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Employee Reflections: What We Are Grateful For

UW Medicine employees have come together to face tremendous hardships, care for the community and even find small joys, reasons for hope and gratitude over the past year.

Shifting our mindset to focus on what we are grateful for is a way to build resilience and bounce back from adversity. And the UW Medicine Gratitude Campaign is creating more of these opportunities to practice gratitude and build resilience in the workplace.

Maybe you have seen or even participated in sharing your gratitude with those around you via an in- person conversation, by adding to the Walls of Gratitude hanging in your unit or writing and delivering a thank-you postcard to a colleague. Or maybe you started your own gratitude practice at home.

gratitude wall with sticky notes
Walls of Gratitude at UW Medicine.

wall of gratitude
Walls of Gratitude at UW Medicine.

If you are looking for a place to start, Lisa Engel; Martine Pierre-Louis, MPH; Tracy Hirai-Seaton, MSW, LICSW; and Federico Olivas, RRT, share what brings them joy, hope and gratitude.

Lisa Engel, Administrative Assistant, UW Medical Center – Northwest

The last year has been difficult for everyone with so much uncertainty.

What can we expect?

Will we ever go back to “normal living?”

These are questions that I can’t answer; although, what I have seen this past year is the generosity of others by helping and giving to each other and the community. Like our local small businesses coming together to help support the hospital’s front-line staff by bringing meals, treats and drinks and saying, “Thank you for all the hard work you are doing.” These same businesses may be struggling, yet they have found the time and money to support and help the community they live in.

I’m so proud to be working at UW Medical Center – Northwest and have a part in delivering these donated meals to staff. I love seeing smiles on my co-workers’ faces and their appreciation for the support. It has also provided me a chance to get to know some of my co-workers and personally thank everyone for all their hard work.

Seeing my co-workers happy to get meals and take a break gave me the strength to keep going — if they can do it, so can I. Coming to work and talking with co-workers has helped me know I am not alone in the way I feel. We help each other out and that is so comforting.

I’m looking forward to the warm summer weather and boat racing. That is what keeps me going.

Engel on a boat dock.
Engel boat racing.

Martine Pierre-Louis, MPH, Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Harborview Medical Center

What keeps me going and grateful are the little sparks and small bits here and there. I stop and enjoy them and gather them wherever I find them.

It’s the little things like exchanging bowls of soup with my neighbor, Naomi, whom I have lived next to for 26 years. The other day she dropped off a pie for me and my daughter. And sometimes we drop off cocktails here and there.

Spring is starting so crocuses are starting to pop up and I’ve been seeing the budding magnolia trees. I truly love to see the buds on the trees. It’s these small things that I am grateful for.

On the warmer days, I post myself on my porch with a book and this is how I visit with my neighbors as they walk by with their kids and dogs. Most of the interactions we have now with others are transactional — it’s work-related or consumer-related.

Making sure to make room for these smaller interpersonal interactions and making them intentional is essential.

I am close to 60 and I love to tell people that I am getting into my elderhood and my concept of being an elder is lovely: It’s a suit of honor and I embrace it willingly. I also really love the next generation – the young folks in their 20s and 30s. I love that there is a sense of integrity, of righteousness and of questioning the systems we were raised in, and I have to say that generation makes me hopeful.

photo of Pierre-Louis in the city
Pierre-Louis.

Tracy Hirai-Seaton, MSW, LICSW, Surgery ICU and Med/Surg Services, and UW Medical Center Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair

At the onset of the pandemic, our Surgical ICU turned into a COVID-19 ICU. As a social worker working with patients, their families and staff, and providing end-of-life grief support, it was a heavy time with lots of loss and unknowns in the beginning. Our unit likes to say we built the ship as we sailed.

My work has transitioned back since those initial months and I have learned there are joys to be found among the sorrow and sadness.

During those initial months of the pandemic, I would leave work so exhausted, and I relied on the little things to get me through. Sometimes it was taking the time to get boba tea after work, to transition from work to home life. Other times, it was slowing down and sitting out in my yard to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

I started cooking more, doing slow, intentional cooking and incorporating more of my cultural and traditional foods. My kids have created a more present relationship with their grandparents, learning how to better engage with their elders and have thoughtful communication.

We are one of those families that got a pandemic pup. We rescued Ruby from a shelter last fall. Coming home to Ruby has been therapeutic and we are so grateful that she joined our family. She brings us immense joy and has helped get me out of the house and get my body moving during those days that are so hard.

I also work with UW Medical Center’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and we work to highlight what we can do better within our institution, how we can bring light to institutional racism, and how we can provide better healthcare for patients and support to our staff and providers. This pandemic is shining a spotlight on inequities and we, as an organization, are saying, “We can do better and we will do better.” And that gives me hope.

Seaton hiking with her kids.

Federico Olivas, BS, RRT, Assistant Director of Respiratory Care Services, Lung Function Testing and Pulmonary Function Testing, UW Medical Center

Last year was one of the most challenging years of my career. It was a year of planning to keep our staff as safe as possible and making sure our hospital had the respiratory supplies to help as many patients as possible.

The best thing I have seen this year is the teamwork from top to bottom in our institution. My team trained staff that had been working in clinics to do inpatient care and everyone had an amazing attitude about it. Everyone is always ready to help and do more.

I ended up getting COVID-19 and was out of work for a month. What brought me joy during this time was my team, my family and my friends. Through Zoom calls and texts, they still managed to have positive attitudes and that kept me going.

Finding out that the vaccine was coming gave me hope.

My wife and I have been doing weekly road trips to break up our routine and get to know our state. My family is slowly getting vaccinated and hopefully that helps us get to see our family soon. I am excited that more vaccines are on the way and for my wife to get one as well.

I feel very lucky to be in a state that has been proactive in regulating reopening according to health experts. 

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