Staff Stories

CAY Jennifer Kelley Photo


Cheering All
With her unmistakably upbeat, friendly attitude, it’s fitting that Jenny Kelley calls herself a "cheer-leader" to fellow nurses. Jenny is a clinical care supervisor in Ambulatory Services, mentoring her colleagues to develop their clinical skill and competency. She believes that offering support and gratitude to staff is how to keep them engaged and doing their best work. "I am always telling other nurses and staff, ‘Thank you for the work that you do.’ " Jenny spreads positive energy in all her interactions, not only by helping her colleagues feel supported but also by encouraging patients to look forward and not focus on sad experiences. "You need to figure out what the patient wants and what works for them and then help them achieve that."

CAY Walter Chesley Photo


Colleagues, Caregivers
Our reputation as "the hospital of choice" inspired Walter Chesley to take on the role of Vice President of Human Resources at HCMC. Soon after he started in 2013, this reputation was put to the test when he was admitted to our hospital for a health crisis. During his time as a patient of HCMC, Walter was pleased to see our reputation embodied in his day-to-day interactions with staff. He witnessed firsthand the seamless care coordination, staff members’ special ways of connecting with patients, and their welcoming approach to family and visitors. Walter’s experience as a patient deepened his appreciation and respect for our outstanding workforce, and he believes that investing in employees positively impacts care quality and outcomes.

CAY Jon Gayken Photo


I’ve Been There
For Burn Center physician Jon Gayken, "Being present for patients means putting myself in their situation" – literally. When Jon was 17 years old, he developed a life-threatening blood infection and spent three months in HCMC’s Burn Center undergoing multiple skin grafts. "I know what it is like to ask for pain meds and to be in their situation," he said. "Some of those feelings and emotions will never go away." Jon believes that this special connection to patients helps him provide better treatment. His story of leaving the Burn Center and coming back as a doctor is not only a powerful inspiration to his patients, but a daily reminder for himself of how far he’s come and why he’s here today.


Faces of Inspiration Margo Richardson Photo


Helping Patients and Families Find Their Way
"I’m a guide through the traumatic spiritual and emotional terrain of a health crisis," said Margo Richardson, summing up her role as a staff chaplain. Patients and families often struggle with questions like "Why me?" or "Why am I being punished or abandoned?" when they get sick or injured. As she listens to patients tell their story, she follows their lead and pays special attention to the sources of strength and support they mention. She then provides the spiritual care right for them, whether it is prayer, a ritual or re-connecting them to their core strengths, values, and faith. "I know I have done my job when I witness people getting to a better place. They begin to find meaning in what is happening, cope with life changes, and find hope."


CAY Priscilla Aguilar Photo


Anticipating Your Needs
"I promise to anticipate your needs before you even know you have them." By being fully present for patients and putting their needs first, Priscilla Aguilar performs her duties as a member of our Registration staff while providing the best possible customer service. When patients and families arrive at our Emergency Department in a health crisis, the last thing on their minds is talking about insurance and demographic information. A simple gesture like offering a blanket for warmth, or water for refreshment, can help ease their anxieties and transform an ordinary healthcare experience into one that they will never forget. This focus on the patient’s needs enables Priscilla to better do her job. "I am always aware of the situation and recognize that every patient is different."

CAY Joe Sedlachek Photo


The Right Way
If you’ve been to our downtown campus before, you may recognize a friendly face in Joe Sedlachek. Joe has worked at our Welcome Services desks for almost 22 years, answering questions and helping visitors find their way. Joe makes a lasting impression on the people he serves by trying to remember the name and face of everyone who stops by. "I always remember people’s names. I find that it eases the nerves of our patients and makes their experience better." With his upbeat and friendly demeanor, Joe’s goal is to set the right tone for their visit. "I want to set a good example for the organization. We are the face of HCMC – the first and last impression."

CAY Jasmine Sidibe Photo


I Don't Hate the Doctor Anymore

"Before I came to HCMC, I always hated going to the doctor," said Yasmine Sidibe, a patient and volunteer. When she injured her hand and came to HCMC for the first time, she found a place where she felt at home. Her friends even joke that she should move in! "My providers take the time to make me feel comfortable, answer my questions, and make sure I understand the treatment plan.” Her positive experiences as a patient inspired Yasmine to volunteer at HCMC. She remembers one burn patient with whom she spent extra time because his family lived out state: "He was my rock star. I told him that I was his #1 groupie. His nurse told me she hadn’t seen him smile like that before." Volunteering has always been in Yasmine’s heart, and she is happy to be able to fully express her passion at HCMC where she says there is a "culture of helping."


Brad McFarland

Better Than Ever
An employee for 26 years and a patient for nearly as long, Brad McFarland has seen Hennepin transform over the years. He has always considered HCMC one of the best, and even chose to have his kidney transplant surgery here as well as all of his primary care. In recent years, however, Brad has also seen HCMC make positive strides in meeting the needs of patients and families that extend beyond excellent clinical care. For Brad, who works in the telecommunications department, one of the most important things we can do is support the lines of communication between patients, families and providers. "I have seen how much of a priority it has become to help patients stay connected with their loved ones,” says Brad. "Families and friends have a very important role on the health care team, and we have a responsibility to encourage their involvement in patient care." There is no doubt that Brad is proud of HCMC and the care provided here, now more than ever.

CAY Katie Kummer Photo


One Improvement at a Time
Katie Kummer doesn’t wear scrubs or a stethoscope, but every hour of her work day is spent thinking about how we can better serve our patients and families. In her role as a performance improvement advisor, Katie collaborates with departments and leaders across HCMC to continuously evaluate and redesign processes and systems. "I am proud to say that I work to improve how we provide care for our patients." Although she has celebrated the successful completion of many improvement projects, the work of continuous improvement is never done. "I love working at HCMC," said Katie. Every day brings a new challenge and a new opportunity to transform our health improvement at a time.

CAY Hue Moua Photo


How I Operate

Hue Moua has always had a special touch with computers, but his touch with people is even stronger. For Hue, great customer service is at the heart of information technology. During his 15 years in IT, including the last three years on the IT team at HCMC, he has found that the most important connections he makes aren't with cables, ports, or networks, but with people. "I make every effort to listen to their concerns, respond to issues quickly, and explain what I am doing so they understand," said Hue. With his IT expertise, Hue knows he can make a difference not only in the work of our staff, but also in the lives of our patients. "Even though I don’t work in patient care, I can help make it possible for providers here to deliver high quality patient care."


Deidre & Nancy

Two Ways to Teach
Deidre Campbell and her mother, Nancy Grimes, have very different roles at Hennepin, but they are both educators in ways that are supported and valued here. Deidre works as a nurse in the Hepatitis and Liver Disease Clinic. She educates patients about their disease and its management, leading to better medical outcomes and more satisfied patients empowered by self-care. Nancy, on the other hand, is a patient of the Internal Medicine Clinic, but she sees herself as a teacher too. “One of the things I enjoy most about HCMC is the teaching environment,” says Nancy, a former teacher and high school principal. "It’s just amazing to meet so many medical students and residents. I get to know them, and they get to know me." By taking the time to create a relationship with each other, she hopes to teach them something about how to keep the humanity in the clinical encounter.

Bilal Flomer


A Supportive Push
Working as a transporter at HCMC, Bilal Flomer safely gets patients where they need to go for tests, procedures, and appointments. Though he may be taking them from one patient care area to another, Bilal doesn't think of the short time he spends with patients as "in-between." Rather, he says, transport is a continuation of their care, with the same potential for healing. As they pass through the hallways of HCMC together, Bilal and his patients talk openly and honestly, and through conversation comes comfort and relief. "I am here for them," says Bilal, "to listen with understanding and compassion and to give them encouragement."



CAY Muhiyadin Aden and Elma Johnson Photo


More Than Words
Every day, HCMC welcomes patients from over 30 different countries speaking over 20 different languages—37,084 patients annually. In such a landscape, professional medical interpreters like Elma Johnson and Muhiyadin "Mo" Aden play an essential role in facilitating communication between providers and patients who speak limited English. "We see things from the eyes of the patient," said Elma. "Many of us have had similar experiences and understand their preferences, needs, and values." As Interpreter Service Supervisors, both mentor their staff on increasing awareness of and respect for the patient’s perspective to support improved health outcomes. "I enjoy my work," said Mo, "because I can make a difference for people."

CAY Jon Pryor Photo


My Dream Job

Now HCMC’s CEO, Dr. Jon Pryor got his start in healthcare when he worked as a nursing assistant the summer before college. He found his life’s work in the rewarding connections he was able to create with patients: "I felt very privileged to be able to touch the patients both physically and emotionally. I felt like I made a difference to them, and it felt good to me as well." After graduating from medical school, he went on to work as a surgeon in urology, including two years of training as a resident at HCMC. In his role as HCMC’s CEO, Dr. Pryor sees himself as he always has: as a member of the healthcare team, working side by side with our physicians, nurses, and staff to deliver patient-, family-, and community-centered care to every patient, every day, every time.

Faces of Inspiration Angela Hanke Photo


First Impressions
Paramedic Angela Hanke and her colleagues in Hennepin EMS work on the front line of patient care. They are the first to respond when an accident or incident occurs in the community, performing life-saving medical services to stabilize patients on their way to the hospital. As first responders, they also have the first opportunity to create a connection with the patient and family and establish them as partners on the care team. For Angela, this relationship starts by listening to their needs, explaining what’s happening and what they can expect, and supporting them in their decisions. And most importantly, "It means showing them I care no matter what the call."  



Edna Martinez

Proactive for Patients
"Hola, me llamo Edna. ¿Cómo le puedo ayudar?" Patient Representative Edna Martinez is skilled in responding to patients’ and families’ concerns and ensuring that their experiences at HCMC are exceptional. But what Edna finds most rewarding about her job are the times when she is not only reacting to concerns, but also being proactive about them. The work she is most proud of is when she has visited with patients and their families to talk about a specific issue or concern, only to identify another need that they may have hesitated to mention—a need that, once met, changes their experience entirely. For Edna, the best encounters are those in which she can help the patient and family feel well cared for.




Mary K Johnson

Sharing Stories
"In health care, we all have stories," said Mary K Johnson. Patients and providers alike. Providers' stories are often about the times when a patient or family member has touched their heart in a particular way. By putting the experience into a story, "they can carry it with them for the rest of their life," she said, "and use it as a reminder of why they do this and why it's all worthwhile." Mary K has amassed a lot of stories during the 26 years she has spent at HCMC as a registered nurse. She also knows that when patients’ share their own stories with her, together they find new and important information that can be used to guide their care. And in the process of sharing each of their stories, Mary K and her patients are creating a new story together.


Thomas Stoner Photo


A Firsthand Account
One of Thomas Stoner's volunteer positions at HCMC is transporting same-day surgery patients to their procedures. Thomas sees his role as much more than just keeping patients safe and comfortable en route. Many surgery patients are nervous about what lies ahead, and so Thomas feels it’s also important to be a calming influence. His own surgical experiences here serve this function well. "I can appreciate their nervousness and uncertainty," Thomas said. He is able to offer patients a firsthand account of what it’s like to be cared for at HCMC. He assures them that what lies ahead is not only safe and excellent clinical care, but a caring team that keeps the patient at the center—every step of the way. 

CAY Amanda Photo


Helping Patients Breathe Easier

When treating patients, Amanda Bjorklund utilizes her clinical expertise as a certified respiratory therapist, a role that she has held at HCMC since 2000. She has also found that one of her most effective tools is her communication skills: "Just talking to the patient, letting him or her know what to expect, and offering words of comfort and reassurance are some of the most powerful actions you can take,” said Amanda. When patients are concerned or scared about their health, she stays and talks with them until they feel secure. Even in situations where patients aren’t conscious or may not be able to hear her, Amanda makes communication a priority. “I do everything I can to help the patient."


John Concepcion


The Power of Listening
When Protection Officer John Concepcion tries to calm a patient or visitor who is upset, you will see him touch him or her in powerful ways—but not with his hands. He reaches them through his ability to listen. John understands that the key to deescalating situations isn't to restrain people. It's to give them the freedom to speak and be heard. "We can work through the whole process by connecting with them and respecting them," said John. Taking the time to actively listen helps staff connect with patients and their families on many levels that can aid in healing.



Ray Cathey

What Really Counts
"I try to go above and beyond for at least one person a day," said Food Service Worker Ray Cathey, who has proudly worn his chef's hat in the HCMC cafeteria for almost three years. Ray always meets his daily goal—and then some, by helping hundreds of others in more modest ways. You’ll see him getting a cover for a patient's plate or finding the crushed red pepper for someone whose meal needs a little heat. But Ray knows it's not the numbers that count. It's the effort. And for someone with such a naturally positive and helpful attitude, it doesn’t even take much of that.



CAY Paige Saunders Photo


On Top of Going Under
If Nurse Anesthetist Paige Saunders wrote an advertisement for surgery at HCMC, it would read something like this: "Making your experience so good you’ll wish you weren’t asleep for it!" The tagline captures her approach to the delivery of care, using humor and laughter to connect with patients and help them cope with difficult situations. "My heart is truly in this to care for others," said Paige. She is passionate about her job and devoted to her patients. "Right before patients are asleep I put my hand on their cheek and tell them we are going to take good care of them. We will be with them the entire time they are in surgery, monitoring their pain and anesthesia."

Shawna Wellnitz


Putting Myself Out There
When meeting a patient for the first time in the Observation and Recovery Unit where she works, Shawna Wellnitz always starts by introducing herself and her role as a health care assistant. In doing so, she is no longer just another staff member, nameless and unfamiliar, going in and out of the room. She becomes a person, with a purpose that she always makes sure to relate to the rest of their care. She says that it is important to "put yourself out there" for patients, just as they must do for you. And for Shawna, introducing herself to patients is the first step toward making their interaction more personal—and more healing.



Joan Hagen

Care You Can’t Measure
Small differences can be immeasurable. Joan Hagen learned this simple lesson firsthand through her own family's health care experiences, and she has applied it to her position as a Radiology Technologist ever since. So, when Joan takes patients back for procedures, she makes sure their families have a chance to say "I love you" first. The small gesture is an immeasurable boost for patients and families, and a good example of how to partner with them in a simple way and keep them at the center. Joan knows that affirmation and assurance go a long way towards a healing experience and she always makes time for them.



CAY Stephen McMahon Photo


"Grade A" Work
Trading his chalkboard for a lab cart, Stephen McMahan switched careers from high school science teacher to laboratory assistant and ended up at HCMC. "I wanted to get into the inpatient setting where I could have direct patient interaction," said Stephen. "It’s always a challenge and I love it." Stephen visits patients in their hospital room to draw blood and other specimens for analysis. He says that in a lot of their daily routines, "we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that these are real people with real problems just like us." Recognizing that every patient interaction offers an opportunity to make a difference, he strives to build meaningful connections with his patients and families.

Marianne Knutson


Patient & Provider in One
Soon after Marianne Knutson started working at Hennepin County Medical Center, she became a patient here. After nearly fifteen years, she’s still both. The Laboratory Manager credits her longevity as a patient to the relationships she has built with her health care providers, who all have supported and empowered Marianne and her husband to participate in her care. As they work together as partners to treat her condition, Marianne and her providers have shared moments of hope, disappointment, and surprising tenderness. Through her experiences as both a provider and patient, Marianne has learned how important it is for providers to simply listen.


Rene Cabrera


Bringing the Best of Me
"To be kind," says Rene Cabrera. "That’s what we are here for." A Facilities Management Worker, Rene knows his service to Hennepin County Medical Center doesn’t stop with his official job duties—keeping our facilities safe and productive. Rene also strives to create a caring and warm welcome by greeting patients in the hallways with a smile, connecting them to hospital services, and walking with them to appointments when they need help. He believes that these daily connections with patients have made him a better person. "It’s a very good feeling when you help somebody."


CAY Jampa Ritzekura Photo


Power of a Calm Mind
A calm mind improves communication, creates trust and respect, and enables you to be present and focus on others’ wellbeing – with a calm mind, anything is possible. Every morning, Jampa Ritzekura practices breathing meditation to achieve this ideal state of mind. He finds that it enhances the care he provides to patients and families in Same Day Surgery where he works as a health care assistant. With a customer service philosophy inspired by the Dalai Lama’s teachings, Jampa practices compassion and finds ways to relate to patients through our common humanity. "I take care of patients as if they were one of my family members because we are all the same: human beings."

CAY Stacey Hayes Photo


Showing How Much I Care
Stacey Hayes got her start in the Medical Records Department, but found her home when she took a position as a patient services coordinator in the Addiction Medicine Clinic. For more than 12 years she has helped support and encourage those struggling with the disease of addiction. "Our clinic is like a family," said Stacey. "The patients are part of that family too." Every day she offers a warm welcome and smile when they check in, making sure to listen carefully and remember special details. "It means a lot to remember something a patient says and then ask about it a couple days later. It shows patients you are really listening to them and care about their lives." For Stacey, each patient provides an opportunity to show how much she cares.