One night Diane was at work when she got a phone call that altered her world. The teenagers on the behavioral health floor found an advocate in Diane. She assured the teens that there was no shame in accepting treatment. “When our bodies are sick we don’t hesitate to go to a doctor. The same should be true for our mental healthcare,” Diane asserts. She was unaware at the time that the young patients’ experience would soon intersect with her own. The call that came was from her mother, who instructed Diane to come get her so that they could go to the hospital. Diane’s sister had been in a car accident driving down a canyon. “I knew it was bad,” Diane whispers. Her intuition proved accurate when she was told that her sister had died. Delivering the news to her dad, who was out of town at the time, was yet another trauma. Because her parents were distraught, Diane found herself handling most of the responsibilities that follow death. “My life spun out of control after that,” Diane shares. Courageously, she reached out for the support she needed to work through her grief and find balance again. “I was lucky to have a good family to support me,” she affirms. “Not everyone has that when they have a crisis.”
Diane is a nurse on the Behavioral Health Unit at St. Mark’s.
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”