By Melissa Campbell
As a little girl growing up in Southern California, Mary Sanchez saw a nurse dressed in a starched, white uniform and cool matching cap. From that day on, Mary knew she wanted to be a nurse.
The road to nursing was a long one, however. Mary became a mom when she was 15 years old and dropped out of high school. She later earned her GED and enrolled in a program to be a dialysis technician. Mary loved being a technician — she did it for 20 years — but she wanted more. She wanted to learn, to gain knowledge. She wanted to be a nurse.
Her dedication and perseverance earned Mary the DAISY Award at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center. The DAISY award recognized Mary for her outstanding nursing skills, compassionate care, and for going above-and-beyond what was expected in her work with patients.
Hitting the Road
Mary moved to Washington state in 1992 looking for a better place to raise her family. She had three boys and felt Southern California wasn’t the safest place for them. Through the years, she never lost sight of that long-ago image of the crisply dressed nurse.
She kept going to school, with the goal of becoming a registered nurse.
“It took me years to get my prerequisites, but I got into nursing school,” Mary said. “I worked full time. I had a family. I loved being a dialysis tech, and I did it for so long. Still, I wanted to further my knowledge. I got my nursing license as an RN when I turned 40 years old.”
Mary has worked at the Auburn hospital for more than 10 years and continued when MultiCare purchased the hospital in 2012. She works in the Intensive Care Unit.
“This is where God wants me to be and I feel that I’m good at it,” Mary said. “I love older people; they gave a lot to society and deserve the best care. I would never be able to work with kids; I’d be a wreck. But elders deserve the best care. You learn a lot from them.”
Celebrating DAISY – at a Distance
The DAISY Award is presented at MultiCare hospitals in South Sound and Inland Northwest regions, and honors licensed nursing professionals in more than 2,000 health care facilities worldwide for outstanding patient care, clinical skills, and extraordinary compassion in nursing.
In ordinary times, a DAISY celebration involves a gathering of coworkers and leaders to honor the recipient. Afterward, they join to congratulate the honoree and share a snack of cinnamon rolls.
To celebrate Mary’s award during a time of social-distancing requirements, her coworkers and leaders gathered, all wearing masks and all standing apart, and only coming together quickly for photos. The celebration was shortened by half, to only 15 minutes, and Mary was handed a box of a dozen cinnamon rolls to take home. No sharing of food among the team.
That was OK. Mary’s “hospital family” were congratulatory, all smiling beneath their masks.
The DAISY Nomination
The gentleman who nominated Mary noted her abilities as a nurse, as well as her caring, kind attention to his wife, who was a patient in Auburn’s Intensive Care Unit for a time.
“She is a God-loving individual, and that shows,” her nominator wrote. “She never complained and indicated to me that she loves her job. She well deserves this award and sets an outstanding example for others to follow. Thank you, Mary, for taking professional care of my wife in ICU and providing me a nice cup of coffee.”
ICU Manager Laura Nunn has worked with Mary for the past seven years in the ICU. Laura noted that Mary provides compassionate care, empathy, and sympathy to patients and their loved ones during their time in the ICU.
“She is able to connect with folks and becomes that familiar trusting figure who advocates and cares for someone’s loved one,” Laura said. “The last few months in the ICU have been scary, stressful, and somewhat chaotic at times, and Mary has continued to display the MultiCare values while providing great care to her patients.”
ICU and Family
Mary’s family has grown. In addition to her three boys, eight grandbabies, and two great-grandbabies, she has a large, extended family at work.
“What keeps me here in the unit is the people I work with,” Mary said. “We’re a family here. We cry together, we laugh together. I am so happy to be here.
“I’m 57 years old now, and there’s nothing in the world I can think of that I’d rather do,” she added. “You really make a difference in someone’s life. What we do here is a matter of life and death — physically and mentally. You see the difference you make when they get better. You offer great care and they appreciate you.”
She paused, thinking of her mom who passed away 10 years ago. Through Mary’s struggles and efforts, she felt her mom was there for her every step of the way.
“My mom was the most supportive person in my life,” Mary recalls. “I made my mom proud.”