Connecting our world at UW Medicine

Celebrating Our Nurses


Highlights | Thank you, nurses

  • May 6-12 is National Nurses Week.
  • Join us in celebrating the contributions of our nursing teams.

It’s National Nurses Week (May 6-12), and we want to recognize our nurses here at UW Medicine for the difference they make in the lives of our patients and community through compassionate, equitable and resilient care.

To celebrate, nurses across UW Medicine share why they wanted to be a nurse, what they love most about their jobs and what they want their colleagues to know about the nursing experience.

Mesay Ajema, RN, BSN, Adult Psych Unit, UW Medical Center – Northwest

Mesay Ajema

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I knew I wanted to be a nurse after going through an experience where I felt helpless and hopeless. When I was 10 years old, all of my family members were sick due to food born illness. At that moment, I decided to learn how to help my family and others who need help. The further I got into my nursing career, I realized how rewarding, challenging and interesting it was to be able to make a difference in people’s lives daily.

What do you love most about your job?

I love helping patients and their families through what is often a difficult time for them. I grew up in a culture where discussions of mental health problems or mental illness is taboo. As a psych nurse, I have been able to help patients have dignity and a voice at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. I love empowering and supporting patients and their families to know that they are able to get through anything and educating them on what they can do to improve their health and find their full potential.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

As a nurse, I am always learning and challenging myself. I learn something new from my colleagues, my patients and their families, which inspires me. The nursing profession allows nurses the opportunity to work in so many diverse areas and offers several opportunities and numerous career paths within the profession. Finishing up a shift knowing that I have brought some sort of peace to a person and being able to help those in need for a living makes this a great profession.

Kris Bauer, MN, ARNP, CCRN, CFRN, Flight Nurse, Airlift Northwest

Kris Bauer

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I was a senior in high school, working as a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) on my small town ambulance service in Montana preparing to have a career in physical therapy. That summer, our area was hit with extreme wildfires and our ambulance crew was called to help a young rancher who was severely burned trying to save his ranch. The location was very rural, so we called the local helicopter emergency medical services (EMS) to meet us at the scene. The rancher was severely burned over 80 plus percent of his body. We did our very best to provide comfort to our patient and his wife, provided basic life support (BLS) services, and awaited the helicopter. When the helicopter arrived the team was efficient, proficient and unflappable. They provided care expertly with confidence, competence and caring, all the while comforting the patient, his wife, and our EMS team. They provided an advanced airway, pain medications, packaged the patient and were off the ground quickly. I was in awe of what I had seen: the professionalism, expertise, skill and confidence in a completely unpredictable environment. As they took off, I asked “what do I have to do to do that?” The answer was go to nursing school and get experience in emergency and critical care. That was the beginning of my career path change to nursing and I did what was needed to be a flight nurse. Best decision of my life.

What do you love most about your job?

My true passion is in flight nursing and education. I love the challenge of critical care in the transport environment. I love the team I work with and the unpredictable nature of our environment. I strive for clinical excellence daily to be a great flight partner and to serve our communities and patients to the best of our abilities. I am so privileged to work with such an amazing team at Airlift Northwest and to serve our communities in the WWAMI region and beyond.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

I have loved my career decision to be a nurse and a nurse practitioner. I feel we are front and center for our patients and their families on their worst days. Our competence, compassion and professionalism can make a big difference in how that “worst day” goes. We make a difference in people’s lives and that makes me proud to be a nurse.

Natasha Warner, RN, BSN, Assistant Nurse Manager, Emergency Department, UW Medical Center – Montlake

Natasha Warner

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in nursing when I was around 12 years old. My grandmother had multiple medical problems, and my grandfather had a stroke when I was pretty young. My aunts took care of my grandfather at home for a very long time until he went to hospice. The hospice nurses were so caring and loving. My grandmother was also in the hospital often for her medical problems, mainly kidney failure. I would pay close attention to the nurses caring for her. I had so much respect for them, even at a young age. I loved how they would care for her like their own family member.

What do you love most about your job?

I absolutely love the team that I get to work with every day. When I first moved here six years ago, it was just my husband and me. No friends, no family. My work team instantly became my second family.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Being a nurse is the most challenging but rewarding job I’ve ever done. There will be really good days and some challenging days. At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that you gave 100% and more and a patient’s life was changed by the care you gave. 

Jerrome Sicat, Triage RN, UW Primary Care Clinics

Jerrome Sicat

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

Helping others has always been a passion. I joined the U.S. Army after high school and served as a combat medic. After my service period, I decided that I loved the healthcare field and pursued my degree in nursing and have not looked back since.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that I get to help patients daily and help them in their time of need. When we are sick, we always have questions about our condition. My job entails triaging symptoms and providing advice to the patient to alleviate that anxiety of being sick. I love also being able to educate patients regarding their health conditions and how to successfully navigate our complex healthcare system.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Nursing is that intrinsic yearning of wanting to help others in their time of need. Nursing fulfills that need to help others and does it through love and compassion. Ultimately nurses want what is best for their patients’ health and well-being. Being able to nurse people back to optimal health is one of the most satisfying feelings.

Donelle Chandler RN, MN, CCRN, Critical Care Nurse Manager, Valley Medical Center

Donelle Chandler

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

Human condition and health had always been an interest for me in my high school days. I took a certified nursing assistant course when I was 17 and started working in a local nursing home while still in high school. I knew that I would become a registered nurse and graduated from an associate degree in nursing program in 1995. I went on to get my bachelor’s degree and then my master’s degree. My passion in nursing was found in critical care.

What do you love most about your job?

I am so proud of my profession. Nurses, with their intimate care of their patients, make a difference in the outcomes of our patients, our communities and our society. People depend on us in their most trying times. Times of grief or fear and those of joy. We as nurses are there to share in these moments and comfort or celebrate with them. It amazes me and fills my soul when I receive cards and thank you letters from families who even after discharge feel the desire to share with my team the difference we made for them or their loved ones. We don’t realize it in the moment, and sometimes we just come to work, but we are touching lives and making a difference in the lives we touch. There is no other career I would choose that gives me the same benefits of gratitude and pride that nursing does.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most difficult time I have experienced in nursing. Healthcare providers were scared. Families and patients were scared. These patients have been some of the sickest I have seen in my 27 years as a nurse, and we didn’t know how to fix them. I have never seen such courageous nurses though. The team of nurses that allowed me to lead ran into the disaster when they wanted to run away. They figured out different ways of providing care while keeping themselves and their patients safe, and they did it together. We worked long hours and extra shifts and gave everything that we had. We have lost nurses from the fatigue of the last two years, and we continue to rebuild ourselves as individuals. I don’t wish to go through a pandemic again, but I will look back at this time never being prouder of the work that we did together as nurses.

Diana Salazar, RN, BSN, CFRN, CCRN, Bellingham Base Manager, Airlift Northwest

Diana Salazar

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I knew that I wanted a career in medicine and helping people. I went to nursing school at the University of Washington. I was working as a nurse technician (nursing student employed as a hospital assistant) in the trauma intensive care unit (TICU) at Harborview when I saw a helicopter land at the Harborview helipad, and I watched nurses unload a patient from the helicopter. I was starstruck and wondered how I could possibly do something like that someday. I continued to work as a nurse on 7E and returned to work in the TICU, but as a nurse this time. Fast forward seventeen years, and I now work for Airlift Northwest as the base manager in Bellingham. I get to fly critical patients all over the Pacific Northwest. That Harborview helipad landing is still special every time.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that every day is different. I never know where I will fly to or what kind of patient I will be taking care of that shift. All I know is that I need to be prepared for anything. I also love that my flight partners are expert nurses and pilots who bring years of experience to every flight. Lastly, I love the beautiful places that I get to fly to. Working at the Bellingham base, our typical flight is in and out of the San Juan Islands and even to Mt. Baker and the North Cascades. I couldn’t ask for a better office view!

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

I hope people know that in nursing the possibilities are endless. There is so much variety in what you can do in the nursing profession. You just have to find your niche and pursue it.

Joyce Navarro, RN, BSN, CNOR, Main OR, Valley Medical Center

Joyce Navarro

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I chose nursing as my career path to be able to give back to the community. It all started out with wanting to give care to my grandparents. I was able to be my grandfather’s nurse before he passed away.

What do you love most about your job?

I love being a nurse for many reasons. It’s the flexibility, opportunities, endless learning and new experiences on a daily basis. It’s also a profession that allows you to grow, give and provide care for other people outside of your family. The opportunity for growth is almost unlimited. I feel good inside for being able to share my abilities to care for my patients.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Being a nurse is a very challenging profession, yet very rewarding in every way. The sense of fulfillment of being able to help our patients in their most vulnerable times is indescribable. I couldn’t imagine myself being in a different profession than I am now. I would choose nursing all over again.

Aaron Hulett, RN, CEN, CFRN, Flight Nurse, Airlift Northwest

Aaron Hulett

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

Before I even went to nursing school, I knew I wanted to be a flight nurse. My introduction into healthcare came as a firefighter/EMT in rural Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula. In especially dire and time-sensitive cases we would call the Airlift Northwest helicopters directly to the scenes. I would marvel at the knowledge, confidence and care that came with those nurses and could think of nothing else I’d rather do. That dream became reality four years ago. I now work and fly with the best nurses and doctors in the field.

What do you love most about your job?

Living in Juneau and flying in Southeast Alaska is nothing short of breathtaking. The satisfaction of helping patients at the time of their greatest need and getting them to the higher level of care they urgently require is greater than I ever could have imagined. I love what I do. I love being a flight nurse.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Being a nurse has exposed me to the best and worst moments in people lives. It can be stressful, heartbreaking, frustrating and exhausting at times, but I take a great amount of pride in helping people to the best of my ability. Together and as part of a healthcare team we do make a positive difference in the lives of many. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.

Kaitlyn Kroontje, RN, BSN, CMSRN, Assistant Nurse Manager, Planned Surgery-Acute Care, Harborview Medical Center

Kaitlyn Kroontje

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I officially knew I wanted to pursue nursing in high school, but looking back, I had a fascination with the medical field and science since I was very young. I recall my cousin cutting open his knee when I was in elementary school. With no parents around, I jumped into action. I was fascinated by the actions of the doctors and nurses when he received professional care. In high school, I researched the nursing profession for an English class presentation. This research solidified that the nursing profession would be the career I wanted to pursue.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that this field is constantly evolving and that there are endless opportunities to learn more. After a few years of working the bedside on my acute care unit, I was offered a role as an assistant nurse manager. This role opened a whole new world of nursing for me that I have grown to love. In this role, I not only get to advocate for patients but have a larger hand in advocating for staff as well. I get to use my love for creativity to make this unit a more enjoyable place to work and my love for education to help new nurses find their way.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Being a nurse involves daily challenges and can take an emotional toll on you. The medical field has been through a lot in these past few years, so check in on any nurses in your life.

I would also admit that it is difficult to summarize what it is like being a nurse because this career has so many diverse paths. Because of this, I have no doubt I will always be able to find an area of nursing that I enjoy as my interests change over the years. In my short six years as a nurse so far, I have loved working behind the scenes as a member of my unit’s management team and recently have received the opportunity to train as a nursing supervisor. I look forward to seeing where this career takes me in the future.

Rachael Lee, RN Care Manager, UW Medicine Primary Care

Rachael Lee

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I have always wanted to be a nurse from a young age; however, the dream was put on hold until after I had a family with three children. One day about 16 years ago, I was jogging and saw an elderly lady lying down on the ground with another lady standing over her. I went over to check. The lady on the ground was alert and was able to speak. I stayed with her while her friend went back home to bring her car. None of us had cell phones back then. That day, I felt so inadequate trying to assess her, and I wanted to be able to do more in that situation. The incident rekindled my dream of becoming a nurse, and I decided to commit to a nursing program soon after. 

What do you love most about your job?

In the primary care setting, I’ve learned many new skills as a RNCM. While following up on hospital discharges, patients often express their appreciation when I ask how they are doing and answer their questions and concerns. One of the skills that I have focused on developing is seeing patients for their subsequent annual wellness. This has become very enjoyable for me because it helps develop good rapport and trust with my patients.  

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Sometimes, people do not realize how diverse the work opportunities are in the nursing field. Nurses are needed in hospitals, clinics, communities, home-health, insurance companies, etc. If someone is working toward a nursing degree, I would like them to know how many different positions are offered. If one role seems ill-suited, there is still so much potential to explore other positions. Because of this, nursing can never be boring! 

Hugh McGowan, RN, BSN, MPA, Nurse Care Manager, UW Medicine Primary Care

Hugh McGowan with his mom, who always supported him in becoming a nurse.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I first considered a career in nursing at the encouragement of some great colleagues early in my professional life. After earning my first undergraduate degree in community health, I worked as a health educator at a primary care clinic serving the LGBT community. The medical providers I worked with saw the satisfaction I took from teaching patients and encouraged me to pursue a career in nursing. I wonder if I would have considered nursing as a profession if I hadn’t received that positive encouragement. And I worry that toxic gender norms still keep families and educators from encouraging men of all ages to consider a career in nursing. I say that not because I think nursing as a profession “needs” men. On the contrary, I am proud to be a member of a predominantly female profession. Rather, I think there are a lot of empathic and caring men who would gain real personal and professional satisfaction by becoming a nurse.

What do you love most about your job?

The aspect of my job that I love most is being a part of an incredible team of people that I respect and admire. Working in healthcare over the past two years has posed a real challenge to my ability to remain empathic and emotionally resilient. Luckily for me, throughout this time my colleagues at the Ravenna Clinic have managed to maintain an environment of collaboration, mutual respect and genuine care that helps us all stay focused on the mission of serving others.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Asking a nurse “Why didn’t you go to medical school?” isn’t the compliment you might intend it to be.

Joona Rajan, RN, BSN, Charge Nurse, Special Procedure Care Unit, Valley Medical Center

Joona Rajan

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

In high school, I took some extra lessons on weekends from a teacher. He was a retired gentleman, a bit hard of hearing, and had vision problems. But his passion for teaching was the one thing that kept him going. The way he explained things would make it very easy to understand. One day, he taught us about lenses and their uses; he talked about long-sightedness and being hard of hearing. He said that when we get older, no one is close to us to see and no one whispers to us to hear, so our bodies adjust our vision and hearing to make us competent to live in this situation. He explained this in his natural way of sarcasm, but this sentiment keeps me thinking. I have been a nurse for 19 years, and I think about this teacher and his comments every time I take care of an elderly patient, and it helps me to care for them patiently.

What do you love most about your job?

I love meeting people and becoming a part of their day. I love meeting people from different generations and observing how they react and cope. I love being their advocate. I tell them there are no good or bad questions, and if you are worried about asking that to your provider, I will ask them for you. I love to remind my patients that you are the most important person here, and we are here for you. I have worked in many areas of nursing, witnessing births and deaths. I have seen all emotions in their extreme state that I couldn’t have seen in any other profession. I learned that having a healthy body is the greatest gift one could have, and nothing, including health, is guaranteed.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

I want people to know that nurses are always at your side. We do not judge you; we treat you with respect even when you are not aware of what is happening to you. I don’t pray regularly or go to a church or a temple, but I pray every day before I step into my unit to help keep everyone safe, and I ask God to be with me every time I touch a patient. We experience your trauma and take some of it with us, and many healthcare providers live with this trauma in their lives.

Lanisha Sherwood RN, BSN, CCRN, Burn and Pediatric Trauma Intensive Care Unit, Harborview Medical Center

Lanisha Sherwood

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

Prior to becoming a nurse, I was an EMT locally. While working as an EMT, the world of healthcare was opened to me. I was able to see nurses in action and view different areas of nursing that I did not know existed. The desire to become a nurse was built upon over a couple of years, and I am so happy I made the decision to pursue this career.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the variety of patients that I get to care for. On the unit I work in, we care for patients across the lifespan — from infants to the very elderly. These patients come from all walks of life and various areas around the Pacific Northwest. Having a variety of patients is very rewarding, humbles me often, and allows me to learn from the experiences and stories that my patients and their families have.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

I like to tell people who are interested in this career that you will frequently have learning opportunities that can lead to so many paths within nursing. Caring for patients and their families, working together with the various entities involved in patient care, and acquiring new skills are just some of the ways that we are always engaged as nurses.

Christopher Davis, BSN, Transplant Surgery and Dialysis, UW Medical Center – Montlake

Christopher Davis

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

I can think of two major things. For starters, I remember my grandfather being ill when I was very young. In the times before his passing, I remember I was always intrigued by ways that I could help him. As a youngster, I never hesitated to step up to the plate whenever my grandfather needed help. Fast forward to when I was a lifeguard as my first job during high school. I noticed I very much enjoyed the basic life support and first aid knowledge that came with the job. When it started to become necessary to investigate what I wanted in a career, I knew that I wanted to broaden my knowledge of first aid and dive into helping people. I realized that by nature I enjoy being a small resource of knowledge for people when they come across something they do not know. Whether that be physically, socially or emotionally. I distinctly remember my family and I would often watch the television show “House” every Thursday evening during the week. Watching the show back then, it suddenly occurred to me, “Wow! The nurses in the show are always the ones that people call first. They are always the first to show up.” I then pondered, “A nurse must know so much about everything to be so dependable.” I think that moment was when I decided I too wanted a career where I could be as dependable as those nurses I saw on TV. So, I chose to become a nurse and the journey of becoming one turned out to be just what I wanted.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that my days working as a nurse are always different from one to the next. It’s never boring for sure. The career itself is still evolving. It is flooded with so much opportunity and diversity. I enjoy that I am active throughout my shifts; my career requires me to engage and interact and work with my hands. It is also a position that needs me to think outside the box on some occasions. There is the aspect that you have the ability to make a difference in the community. But I sincerely just enjoy offering a hand in any situation whether that be the patients I take care of or my co-workers. Just the thought of being able to have an influence on someone for the better is its own reward.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Nursing is not just a job, but a lifestyle. Nursing has affected so many aspects of life beyond just working inside the hospital. I feel like becoming a nurse has been an incredible asset. It guides me to make the best everyday choices such as how/what I should eat, or how I should go about my fitness. Nursing influences my choices in travel, helps my social skills, encourages me to try new things and so on. I can apply this all when interacting with my peers as well. You notice people have a sense of trust in you. Being a nurse builds on your skills for being a natural leader because people can look up to you. Being a nurse does not stop in a clinical or hospital setting, it follows everywhere you go. It is one of the most challenging jobs someone could do. It’s physically and mentally demanding at times. However, at the end of the day, you feel amazing satisfaction and pride. Nurses work from the heart. We know that we have devoted ourselves to care for those in need, which is unlike any profession.

Lesa Bjork, RN, BSN, Medical Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Harborview Medical Center

Lesa Bjork

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

When I was in the second grade, I made a friend whose mom and her partner were nurses, and being around them made me think that’s what I wanted to do, too. When I became a nurse, I was very glad that I really did love it, as I had never really considered anything else! My friend’s mom and her wife would still tell you today that I was their only daughter who went into nursing.

What do you love most about your job?

It’s hard to pinpoint what I love most about my job. I love making a connection with people, often it is the patient’s family in my role, helping them through what is often the worst time in their lives. I also appreciate the challenge of ever-changing knowledge and being involved with the research and learning that goes along with that. I love the collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that is a huge part of UW Medicine. Harborview’s mission statement and the diverse population we serve is also a huge component of why I’ve stayed here so long. I love my coworkers and am constantly in awe of their ability to rise to the many challenges we face!

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

Being a nurse is amazing, in spite of the many challenges we face in healthcare today, it is such a privilege to be with and help people during some of the most difficult times in their lives. After 33 years, I still love what I do!

Joan Yun, RN, BSN, Primary Care and Dermatology, UW Medicine Primary Care

Joan Yun

When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a career in nursing?

There was never an exact moment when I knew I wanted to pursue nursing. It was more like a small flame that grew into a real passion for combining science, empathy and critical thinking to serve our diverse patient populations.

What do you love most about your job?

The part I love most about my job is collaborating with other disciplines and our patients to solve difficult problems with unique solutions.

What do you want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse?

What I want people to know about what it’s like being a nurse is that you are never bored! 

Messages from the community

In celebration of National Nurses Week, read the heartfelt messages submitted by the community on Instagram and Facebook.


“My husband was at Harborview for 7 days, the first two in ICU, our daughter was so inspired by the care by his nurses, she is now working in the cardiac ICU at Harborview. I celebrate you every day.”

“UW OB nurses are awesome! Will always remember the nurse who got a really difficult IV placed for me & did so with humor & a great attitude! And the nurse who held my hand when I had to get a spinal block put in & I was scared. You all are the best! Thank you!!❤️ ”

“I can’t say enough to all the nurses who took such good care of me before, during and after my L-VAD and heart surgeries. Not to mention all the care they gave me during my trial with no-cardia. You all are wonderful! God bless you! It’s obvious you care.”

“I have a grandson and granddaughter who are R.N.s Thankyou all nurses for the caring and hard work.”

“Arnold Bravo, RN 3 in surgery is BEST, HARDEST WORKING circulator ever !!!!”

“On 6-11-2017 I was fortunate to receive a double lung transplant at UW. There are no words to thank the nurses [angels] that watched over me.”

“Happy National Nurses week .. thank you for always putting others before yourselves.. Nurses bring compassion.. comfort & care .. thank you thank you thank you .. my mom too is a nurse n I’ve seen over the years how she’s given so much & more to this beautiful profession.. 🤗🤗🤗🤗❤️❤️❤️🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏💐💐💐Nurses should be celebrated everyday..THANK YOU for everything you do.”


Editor’s note: Responses were lightly edited for length, clarity and style.

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