Connecting our world at UW Medicine

Celebrating UW Medicine Nurses

In celebration of National Nurses Week, we want to recognize the unparalleled contributions of our nursing teams.

For over a year now, our nurses have worked tirelessly across the UW Medicine system caring for patients through multiple waves of COVID-19. The commitment, compassion and resilience of our nurses is extraordinary.

Notes from our nurses

Nurses from across our system share their thoughts and reflections over the past pandemic year.

Julie Heckel, Med-Surg RN, Acute Care

“I have worked the fifth floor for 13 years. I have never been more proud or honored to work with our team than this past year plus. It was the most terrifying, heartbreaking, depressing year I’ve experienced. The staff on five pulled together, supported each other, cried with each other and even laughed on occasion. I am proud of the care we provided to our patients and each other — nurses, certified nursing assistants, environmental services, dietary, stores, hospitalists, palliative, social work, etc. It was brutal, we did it as a team. In the future, I hope this portrait reminds me of the teamwork, strength and caring my colleagues and I shared during the pandemic. And that the fear, grief and anger fades. Thank you, fifth floor team, for being a silver lining during such a difficult time.”

Watercolor of Julie Heckel, by Jayashree Krishnan (jayashreekrishnan.com) as part of a pandemic portrait series.

John Peterson, RN, MNHP, CCRN, Trauma Surgical ICU

“The past year has been filled with times of chaos, frustration and heartbreak. It has taught me a great appreciation for the things I have in life, as well as a great respect for the unit where I work and the fantastic people I am able to call my colleagues.”

John Peterson, RN, MNHP, CCRN, Trauma Surgical ICU
John Peterson

Richmond Buertey, RN, Acute Care

“It means a lot to me to be able to give back something important to the community during these strange times. This is why we became nurses and have been trained to do what we do. When we get off the elevator on the COVID-19 unit, there’s this poster of our mission statement, ‘Caring for our community like family.’ That’s a huge reminder of why we’re here and what we’re doing.”

Richmond Buertey
Richmond Buertey

Jennifer Smith, BSN, RN, Acute Neuroscience

“It’s hard to put into words the challenges of the past year as we all know, but I can say it has been a unifying experience. I’m relatively intact, and I have my 3W Neuro family to thank for it. My endless gratitude goes out to them and to healthcare workers across the world.”

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith

Francis David, BSN, RN, CCRN, Medical and Cardiac ICU

“The struggle against COVID-19 has challenged and sowed much division within our country. But every day, I’m inspired by how the nursing profession united, rallied and supported one another to successfully carry out the important role that nurses have played in our fight against COVID-19.”

Francis David
Francis David

Moriah Janke, BSN, RN-BC, Surgical ICU

“This past year feels surreal. We’re still dealing with COVID-19 but we have so much more knowledge and experience with it. A year ago our Surgical ICU got turned into the COVID-19 ICU. I remember finding out on a Friday that we were going to be the COVID-19 unit, and coming back the following Tuesday as charge that day with all COVID-19 patients. It was the most stressful and saddest nursing I’ve done in my 14 years of nursing but at the same time I am forever grateful that we had proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and were on the forefront of figuring out the prevention and treatment for this disease. My team and colleagues are amazing and if it wasn’t for them, this past year would have been a lot harder. I do feel like we are over the hump and we just need everyone to go get vaccinated!”

Moriah Janke
Moriah Janke

Stacy Lessig, BSN, RN, Trauma Surgery

“I have been here for 37 years on 7E (Trauma Surgery). This past year has been challenging and unrelenting to everyone and so different than previous years in so many ways. I was able to maintain a positive spirit at work with great team support. Some days can be so exhausting with different issues at work. I am so fortunate to have our team members as well as our nurse manager Aimee Diffendaffer at my side, which helps me keep going and going like the rabbit from the Energizer commercial.”

Stacy Lessig
Stacy Lessig 

Kim Tomlinson, BSN, RN, Trauma Surgery

“Masking, eye protection and swabbing noses have become our daily norm. I find myself trying to control my anger as I see others not wearing masks or wearing them incorrectly. ‘We are well over a year into a pandemic and you still can’t wear your mask correctly’ I think to myself. Why do I still need to tell people to take a few steps back while I am waiting in line to pay for my groceries? Why do I feel my blood boil when I am on social media and read how people are blaming our leaders for making them wear masks or closing down their favorite restaurants again? Why? Why? Why?”

Kim Tomlinson
Kim Tomlinson

Nafee Mohamed, RN, BSN, PCCN, Medicine/Telemetry

“With the pandemic going on, we as nurses are well equipped in our hearts to deliver outstanding care. Nothing stops us!”

Nafee Mohamed
Nafee Mohamed

Barbara Dempsey, RN, BSN, CCRN, Flight Nurse

“I really love being a nurse. Connecting with people at such a vulnerable time is a privilege, and one I enter into with such respect every time.”

Barbara Dempsey
Barbara Dempsey

Eric Bressani, RN, Medicine/Orthopedics and Acute Care

“It is difficult to remember how simple life was just over a year ago before COVID-19 interrupted our lives, relationships and dreams. I was a newly graduated nurse last year and I remember how gratifying it felt to enter this profession at such a historic moment. I quickly learned the necessity of being adaptable and the importance of promoting optimism in creative and imaginative ways to fellow nurses in order to prevent emotional fatigue. I realized that wearing a mask needs to be a more common practice in healthcare to help protect ourselves, to protect our vulnerable patients and to protect the communities we live in, not just during a pandemic, but as a preventative measure. As I look forward, I am so excited to have potlucks, parties and bond with my colleagues to celebrate life’s precious moments. I know with every cell in my body that as more people are vaccinated and the pandemic starts to fade away, life will begin to feel more normal, more like those simpler and happier times.”

Eric Bressani

Pat Racioppo, ADN, RN, Trauma Surgery

“This past year with the pandemic challenge has brought out the best of Harborview Medical Center staff. Every team member rose to this challenge and gave their all. Everyone went above and beyond caring and being committed to the Harborview mission statement for our patients, the community and each other.”

Pat Racioppo
Pat Racioppo

Trevor Lanz, RN, BSN, MN, General Medicine

“As someone that works in healthcare and was a guest in our NICU for six or so weeks mid-pandemic, I was amazed at the resilience our NICU caregivers demonstrated. It never felt like we were receiving healthcare during a pandemic, my son, my wife and myself received world-class care. It goes without saying but, a NICU stay changes you. When your child is born in crisis, your world falls apart. Putting everything back together is tough in normal situations, but during a pandemic this process becomes much more complex. You can’t meet with family, you can’t bring them into the hospital for emotional support. No venting over shared meals or sitting at a table conversing. You’re effectively cut off from normal support mechanisms. Valley Medical Center’s NICU staff understood this and stepped up to the challenge, they cared for us like family for our entire stay. We felt loved and safe in the hospital. While I will always bear the scars of my sons emergent birth, I know I am in a better place due to the team at Valley. They provided the best care possible during some of the world’s darkest hours.”

Trevor Lanz with his wife and son.

Share your appreciation

Send your thanks, stories and encouragement to nurses at UW Medicine on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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