A delightful delivery

Purple popcorn, sparkling gold tumblers, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and W-Day t-shirts. All for free. And yet, students at the University of Washington Bothell were more excited about how they could give, rather than what they could receive at the Oct. 15 celebration.

All the tables on the plaza were for giveaways to celebrate the University’s birthday — except for one. It was there that more than 200 students took time out of their day to write a card and give thanks to a health care worker.

“I couldn’t believe the number of notecards that were completed by students,” said Julie Klein, the associate director for advancement who managed the station. “Many of the cards contained such thoughtful messages. It was moving to see both the impact health care workers make in the community as well as how grateful our students are for their service.”

Small gesture, big impact

Jessica Newkirk, assistant director of engagement events, came up with the idea while planning W Day. “My best friend is a nurse practitioner, and I have seen how difficult the past year has been for her. I spent a lot of time wishing there was something I could do, and then I realized there was,” Newkirk said. “My hope was that these words of encouragement reach the people who need them most.”

And they did.

Julie Klein, associate director for advancement, delivers thank-you notes to Dr. Mary Shepler, chief nursing officer at EvergreenHealth Kirkland

One card brought tears to the eyes of Dr. Mary Shepler, chief nursing officer at EvergreenHealth Kirkland. It read, “Thank you for all your effort over the pandemic, thanks to you guys my grandma was able to get the help she needed.”

For Shepler, it’s those words of affirmation that keep her going. “These cards are a much-needed boost of morale not only for me but for our team. They fill our tank; they give us back our ‘why’ and the energy to continue serving our community,” she said.

The cards, unfortunately, could not be delivered directly to front-line workers because the nurses and doctors were too busy caring for sick patients. According to Shepler, it’s the worst it has been since the start of the pandemic.

“Out of my 35 years in nursing, the last wave of the pandemic has been the most challenging,” she said. “We are at maximum patient census across the United States and here locally. We don’t have enough beds for the amount of people that need them.

“It has been very challenging for our health care teams; receiving these notes makes such a difference and boosts our spirits.”

Heart-filled thank you

Students filled the cards with their gratitude for things such as keeping their communities safe, being a pillar of strength in a difficult time and, most importantly, for saving their loved ones’ lives.

For fourth-year student Jaresiah Williams, whose mom is a nurse, writing the letter was personal.

“I saw firsthand what it was like for health care workers, and it gave me insight into how much they had to give up to help others,” said Williams, who also is director of marketing for the Associated Students of the University Washington Bothell. “For many, that meant separating from their loved ones to take care of people who were sick. I can’t think of a more selfless act than that, so to me, it is definitely worthy of thanks.”

Kira Lemke, a third-year student majoring in Biology and minoring in Neuroscience, felt similarly, despite not having any close ties to a health care worker.

“They have been through two exhausting and traumatizing years,” Lemke said. “They have poured their hearts and souls into their community, and I wanted to do whatever I could to give back, show my gratitude and refill their cup.”

Making an impact

Dr. Mary Shepler reads the notes sent by UW Bothell students

Shepler, who is also an advisory board member for the School of Nursing & Health Studies, received the cards at EvergreenHealth on Oct. 21 and distributed them to each of the nursing units. To the students who took the time to write a card, she wants to say thank you.

“Sometimes those two words can seem insincere, but I truly mean it,” Shepler said. “Thank you for taking the time for such a thoughtful and personal act. Please know that it made an impact on our teams.

“And to the University of Washington Bothell, thank you for your ongoing support and for producing such great nursing students. Please continue to keep us in mind.”

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