For the latter half of September and the first half of October, we’re spotlighting some of our amazing caregivers each week that are part of the Hispanic/Latinx community and sharing what Hispanic Heritage month means to them.
Hispanic Heritage Month is way to promote the history, culture, and contributions of Hispanic-Americans — specifically, those whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Check in each week to see the newest caregiver spotlight!
Silvia Kennedy is proud of her heritage and embraces her identity as a Latina every day. She also holds proud her role as a trusted member of her community, that she is not only a part of, but serves.
Just a month ago, Silvia joined Swedish’s developing Cultural Navigator team, focused on programs that address health equity and barriers within our surrounding communities. She says the work they are doing is based on a trust they develop as being members of the neighborhoods and communities that Swedish is looking to serve.
And that couldn’t be more accurate for Silvia, who is driven by a vision to ensure everyone has access to health resources and advances. The vision is that families don’t lose hope and get lost within the healthcare system, and instead see windows of opportunity.
“I have seen so much pain and struggles and I really want to be part of the leaders focusing on changing that narrative,” Silvia says.
Silvia joins Swedish with over 10 years of experience in health navigation for vulnerable populations in the Puget Sound area. She’s also on the boards of the Latinx Executive Health Board and the King County Promotores Network, and the COVID-19 Director for Latinos Promoting Good Health.
Hispanic Heritage month for Silvia means celebrating and recognizing the presence of Latinx culture in our society, as well as the contributions and accomplishments of those who came before us.
“I think that times are shifting and that it’s good to see our cultures being embraced by many in the U.S.,” she says. “I feel proud of where I came from.”
Silvia is the only member of her family living in the U.S., the rest our in Mexico. She upholds traditions to feel connected to her family- one of her favorites is celebrating Día de Muertos with her husband, kids, and friends. She has an altar on her porch honoring those who are no longer with us and cherishes the day as a chance to share more about her background and culture with those she loves. She says embracing the traditions also helps her stay grounded to who she is.
Some of the biggest challenges she’s seen Latinx families face when navigating healthcare are resources not being offered in their language, difficulty with transportation to resources, resources not being promoted in an effective cross-cultural way, and even negative experiences of racism at those resources, keeping families from returning to that care. With those challenges in mind, Silvia is part of a team of Cultural Navigators that are working to cater a regional health program aimed at identifying specific neighborhoods that need delivered care that is affordable and accessible for residents in that community.
Everyone has been extremely welcoming so far at Swedish, Silvia says, and she’s excited to start doing work within clinics, hospitals, and the greater community to bring accessible healthcare closer to the patients who need it most.
“Something I’ve found, and really enjoyed, is the cross-collaboration among teams towards this same goal, that’s something I love seeing and thought was almost impossible to have inside of a health system (like Swedish) because of the complexity of the health system,” Silvia says.
When not building partnerships and health equity, Silvia is a lover of cooking and exploring a variety of cultural dishes, with a sustainable vegan diet. She’s also become an avid sourdough-bread baker during the pandemic.
Sara Davila-Candelario is a senior quality program manager for the Quality Division at Swedish. In September she will be celebrating 2 years with Swedish and as she says, “time flies when you are having fun.” Her role supports quality improvement programs with the goal of standardizing care delivery, increasing reliability and supporting quality management at Swedish.
As Program Managers, Sara explained how it’s all about the patient, their experience and their outcomes. The quality division incorporates both the patient and caregivers’ voices in the design of programs and services.
Sara finds her role very rewarding and loves how it provides her the opportunity to collaborate with staff in different roles, different backgrounds and different perspectives, resulting in the design of stronger quality interventions. “I work with a wonderful team of quality professionals, and they inspire me to be my best.”
Similar to how Sara embraces diversity in her day-to-day role, Sara believes Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate diversity of Hispanic and Latinx communities and to educate others while honoring the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latinx Americans.
“This month allows us to reflect on how much we have in common with other communities, that we need to be more open and inclusive, and how important it is that we lock arms to achieve justice and equity for those who have been left out.”
Sara’s ability to embrace diversity at work allows her to provide the highest quality of care. Sara’s advice for anyone looking for motivation is to go back to the reason you chose to do what you are doing and use that as inspiration to motivate yourself in hard times. And as much as possible take care of both of your mental and physical health. Then you will be able in a better position to take care of your teammates and patients.
Danny Almaraz values every dollar he earns, every life he can make a difference for, in honor of his grandfather’s legacy.
When his grandfather migrated to the U.S. from Mexico, he picked rocks in fields so machinery could plow the lands. Danny grew up with the stories of his grandfather never complaining, happy to put food on the table for his large family (his grandparents on both his mother and father’s sides each had 10 children, who all looked out for each other).
That trait, of caring for one another unflinchingly, was passed down to Danny. He recognized early that caring for others in moments of most need was his calling.
Danny, who has been with Swedish just over 17 years and is currently at technician in the Cherry Hill ED, says his journey to healthcare was absolutely influenced by his grandfather’s legacy. He’s traced his families’ origins back to both Mexico and Spain so he can share proudly where they came from and how they got here.
For Danny, Hispanic Heritage Month is a moment his community and family’s cultures are represented and recognized. And it’s a chance to share in his traditions with others. His says it’s great to feel that representation in healthcare as well.
From his senior year at a high school in Eastern Washington, when he took a healthcare occupations class, Danny was invested in nursing. He moved through Swedish from a CNA to a technician in 2018. Technicians are often doing a variety of the behind-the-scenes support work, from EKGs, phlebotomies, splinting patients and more, he says. Being a technician requires an array of skills that must be kept up to date.
Despite the intense work involved, Danny is happy and thankful for his position. He says the most rewarding part of working in the Emergency Department is being able to help patients feel a little better the moment they’re in the door.
“Working in the ED, we’re seeing people at their most critical point in their lives. But we can help to ease the pain, fear and worries, before we even decide if they’re going home or being admitted to the hospital,” Danny says. “The most rewarding part is seeing (patients) feel better physically and mentally. it’s really rewarding to see we were able to help someone in a moment of crisis.”
What drew Danny to healthcare is helping people in that moment of crisis, inspired by the way his own family gathers and supports each other. Family gathering is a major part of Danny’s heritage, he says, reflecting on the sharing and cooking of meals. He says if one person in his family has cooked a meal, they’ve invited over at least one other person to share it with.
That constant gathering to eat, and the sharing of traditional recipes, spices, and cooking methods, are something he holds with pride now. But he can recall it didn’t always feel that way- going to school and sitting with other students in the cafeteria. He remembers how while others ripped open chip bags and bit into PB&Js, his lunch was wrapped in a tortilla, filled with whatever was available to his family at the time.
“There was a bit of shame that came with that as a child, because it was looked at as different compared to other kids. But now, as an adult, I can look back and say I was eating some of the best meals, made with love, from my grandmother’s hands at 4 a.m. before anyone else was awake,” Danny says.
“The representation of food, love, caring, and sharing is a big part of tradition in my family.”
When Danny is not at work here at Cherry Hill, he returns the rest of the month to his new home in Alaska with his amazing husband Justin.
Martha ‘Susy’ Cadena is a certified MA 3 at Swedish First Hill Primary Care and Internal Medicine. At Swedish, she’s been able to go up the ladder, work hard, and in turn help her community.
Susy, born and raised in Mexico, wants to use her platform to speak to the challenges and needs the Hispanic community faces in healthcare and give back to her community.
Before joining Swedish, Susy was an MA Supervisor at a Latino driven community health center for 12 years. After working at the community health center, Susy saw firsthand the limitations and disparities the Hispanic community faces when it comes to healthcare.
“I’ve learned to see their needs through their eyes and experiences shared with me and have learned to be compassionate and understanding to their needs,” she says. “That experience pushes me to do my very best and to find resources that can ensure the best healthcare quality system for them and their loved ones/families.”
When asked what Hispanic Heritage month means to her, Susy shared that she is blessed to be able to help her community in a language they can understand, and that her previous work directly with the Hispanic community made her sensitive to their needs. Susy says she will continue to do as much as she can for her community with the knowledge and training here.
Susy started at Swedish as a temporary employee, then became a permanent employee in 2017.
“Swedish has given me the opportunity to go up the ladder and become a regular certified MA to MA 2 to MA 3 and now preceptor. I have had many opportunities for growth and find it satisfying to know I can learn at my job every day from every patient."
In her role, Susy works with only adults and geriatric patients and heavily focuses on providing her patients with exceptional care. Patients develop strong relationships with their doctors and MA’s, and Susy says it’s rewarding to see how much of a difference we can make in their healthcare when we go above and beyond.
Throughout the last couple years and through the pandemic, her team of MA’s have gotten stronger and more resourceful to ensure they are providing the best quality of care possible, even with the limitations that have been presented given the circumstances. Every day she and her team face the challenges of staffing, wearing multiple ‘hats’, and still deliver care with pride and teamwork.
Walking away from a day’s work knowing you have made a difference in your patients’ day is what Susy finds most rewarding about her role. Her advice to fellow caregivers is: “At any job you’ll face challenges and see limitations, but if your heart is in the right place, you will find it within yourself to perform your job with the most absolute dignity and compassion.”
Justine Gomez, lead medical assistant at Swedish Renton Primary Care, has been with the clinic for six years. She said the caregivers at the Renton Primary Care are a community, that gets along well and supports each other, even if it’s outside of their regular duties. Justine has the same model of care with her family, who are from Honduras: they love to gather and support each other no matter what.
For Justine, she said Hispanic Heritage Month is a chance to show what the Latino communities have contributed to this country and what they’re here to do. She also says it’s a chance to see how cultures from all over the world come to the U.S. and adapt and connect with other cultures.
One thing she enjoys is that there is so much diversity within the “Hispanic” umbrella, and she loves learning a little bit about each other’s cultures.
She’s happy to be at Swedish Renton Primary Care. In her previous job she had former coworkers leave for Swedish job positions. She said they encouraged her to find a job at Swedish and heard a lot of great things about working for Swedish. However, she lives in Kent and says she wanted to find a place to work that was close to home. Luckily for Justine, in 2015, she saw an availability for a medical assistant at the new Renton Primary Care Clinic.
At the clinic, Justine does a little bit of everything. Outside of assisting her physician, she also helps others as needed, restocks supplies, and supports coordinating staffing. Justine said she’s most happy at work when she can help a struggling patient find the help that they need and take away their anxiety navigating the healthcare system.