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Teresa Lane has been a screening nurse in Evergreen Health’s Sexual Health and Testing program for almost four years, but her relationship with Evergreen dates back even further, to her days as a Pride Week volunteer. In our latest Team Evergreen interview, Teresa tells us about her first impressions of Evergreen and her love for her work in patient care—challenges and all.
What motivates you to come to work and give it your all day after day?
Helping people. We have patients who are so nervous to get tested and to talk to a stranger about their sexual health. But by the time they leave, they’re happy they came in. You can see the relief in their eyes. That’s such a good feeling.
What do you do to help make nervous or scared patients more comfortable?
When people come into my testing room, if I’m able to, I inject a little bit of humor into the interaction to make them more relaxed. I want patients to know they can be really honest with me. I’m not just some nurse hammering them with questions.
It helps that Evergreen is a really safe space. I felt that before I even worked here, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to work here. The atmosphere puts people at ease. All our employees are really friendly, and they go out of their way to make people feel comfortable, even if they don’t know them. As soon as patients come through our doors, they feel welcomed by the people at the front desk, by the people in the hall. Everybody goes out of their way to make patients feel good.
How do you handle it when you have to deliver an STI diagnosis to a patient?
When someone has a reactive test of any kind, it’s important to first listen to them to understand the feelings they’re experiencing. Then, I try to help that person get to the next step of care at Evergreen, because everything that we test for, we can treat. We test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis C. Those are all treatable, and they’re curable. We also test for HIV, which is treatable. I figure out how to reassure them and let them know that there are next steps they can take.
What is challenging about your work?
Sometimes, a patient doesn’t want to disclose any information. They just want the testing. I think it has a lot to do with being nervous that their information won’t be kept confidential. The challenge is making them feel comfortable enough to talk to me, so I can assess what their risk is. I make sure they understand that their answers are completely confidential. Everything stays here. Nothing’s going to go out into the world. But if they don’t want to answer questions, that’s fine, too. That’s their right.
What makes Evergreen a great place to work?
I have worked for many employers, and I’ve never experienced working in a place like this. All the staff are so supportive and friendly. Everyone genuinely seems to love their job, and it starts from the top. The CEO and all of the people in administration are approachable. They care about our patients, and they care about their employees. It feels like we’re all trying to help each other, because we all have the same goal. Maybe that’s what makes Evergreen so special—that we’re all working toward the same thing.
What have you learned since starting at Evergreen?
It sounds corny, but we’re all from such different walks of life; we have different paths, different experiences. But we’re all so similar, too. Working with so many different people and patients has made me realize that most people have the same overarching goal. We want to be safe and happy and healthy.
Where did you work before Evergreen?
I worked at a nursing home for a short time, and before that I was a nurse at a Girl Scout camp, which was an amazing job. But I’ve only been a nurse since 2014. Previously, I worked at a hardware store. I had always wanted to be a nurse, so when I found an opportunity to finally go back to school, I took it. It was a big career switch, but I’m very happy I did it.
What made your experience at Girl Scout camp so extraordinary?
I loved working with kids. The campers usually complete a one- or two-week program. They arrive nervous and homesick, but by the end of the program, they’ve had the time of their lives. Then they leave, and you get to meet a whole new group of kids who are nervous and homesick, and you do it all over again.
Why did you want to become a nurse?
I think we’ve all had negative experiences in healthcare—times we’ve gone to the doctor or for testing or to the hospital, and someone was rude to us or otherwise made us feel uncared for and not listened to. I think about those experiences when I treat patients. I take any bad experience I’ve had with healthcare and learn from it and apply it to my work, because I don’t want any patient to experience those things.
How did you find your way to Evergreen?
I was familiar with Evergreen before I started working here. Years ago, I volunteered during Pride Week, and everybody coordinating the volunteers was so friendly and so happy and grateful to have us there. They made me want to come back and volunteer more. I really wanted to be part of Evergreen.
How would you describe Evergreen in one word?
Respectful comes to mind, because Evergreen treats everyone with respect. I think some people aren’t used to that—being treated with respect.
In addition to your full-time job at Evergreen, you have a young daughter and a husband. How do you find the time to get it all done?
It is not the easiest thing in the world. Thankfully, Evergreen understands that things happen, and you need to balance your work life and your family life. It also helps that we get a decent amount of paid time off. Sometimes, I need to take a mental health day, or I need to take a random Wednesday off to hang out with my daughter. I’m never made to feel guilty about that.
No one should ever be made to feel guilty about a little self-care. Thanks for sharing your story, Teresa!