Celebrating Heroes of Health Care with the Care for Caregivers Program

As the pandemic unfolded in early 2020, it changed everything about how health care was given. It also brought a new appreciation for health care workers and a focus on supporting their well-being. That gratitude inspired Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) to raise funds for the Care for Caregivers Program.

Now, three years later, our team continues to care for COVID-19 patients with expertise and empathy. And donors continue to generously support our team's well-being and patient care.

“The community’s words of encouragement and generosity with meals and other resources made a huge difference for our frontline providers,” Lois Erickson, Vice President of Operations at St. Clare Hospital says. “It's been amazing to see that acknowledgment and gratitude continue through every stage of the pandemic.”

Dollars raised from the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund for the Care for Caregivers Program provided gratitude meals, activities at team celebrations and mindfulness classes.

“Having lunch ready or a mindfulness class has given us the opportunity to maintain our team’s strong sense of connection. Just like the small things matter in patient care, small things give our team a chance to connect, decompress and help us stay resilient,” Lois says.

Many patients who received care through the pandemic have shown gratitude by supporting the Care for Caregivers Program, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund and the departments where their doctors specialize.

Some of the most significant support comes from grateful patients — like Rose Taylor, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020.

“When I met my doctor and his nurse, I couldn’t have imagined how important they would be in my healing process,” Rose says. “At the time, people didn’t want to touch anyone. But my nurse sat with me and held my hand when I was in pain and scared when my husband wasn’t allowed to be in the hospital.”

Another patient, Mark Van Mersbergen was flown to Seattle from Bellingham to participate in a clinical trial for severely ill COVID-19 patients.

“I only had a 10 percent chance of living. I was in a coma for 20 days. Three years later, this ornery old farmer still gets very emotional thinking about the incredible people who saved my life,” Mark says.

His gift honors the nurses and doctors whose names he still doesn’t know and who sat by his side 24-hours a day monitoring his health while in a coma.

“No single person heals or cares for a patient. Quality care requires strong collaboration between care providers on each team and across teams, departments, and specialties,”  Lois says. “Health care workers have always been and continue to be heroes. We're so grateful to have funding that allows us to acknowledge and celebrate them.”

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