Plamena is somewhat invisible around here. “We’re the people behind the curtain,” she laughs, as she describes herself and her colleagues who work in the Lab at St. Mark’s. True, there is something mysterious about Plamena’s work. She does not see patients, but she works with that red stuff of life that provides so much information about them. The names and ages on each labeled vial represent a person she does not know, but about whom she cares a great deal. Plamena remembers being sick often as a child. She spent a lot of time in hospitals in Bulgaria where she grew up. “It was not the greatest experience,” she frowns. In addition, her mom had to work many hours to provide for the family, resulting in Plamena spending a lot of time alone. This period of incubation allowed her to imagine how she would do things differently. Seizing her independence early, Plamena combined her imagination with hard work and made her way to study at the University of Utah. As member of the lab team, Plamena explains that she is often the first one to know of a patient’s diagnosis, even before the doctor. The machines are important for doing tests, “But so is mercy,” according to Plamena.
Plamena works as a Medical Lab Scientist 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.”