Linda Lawson and Alejandro Moreno
Steve Butler, UWeek
When people arrive at Harborview's Psychiatry Clinic on the fifth floor of the East Clinic building, they approach a glassed-in reception area. Whether they are returning patients or new visitors deep in crisis, they are greeted by Linda Lawson and Alejandro Moreno in the same way. With a smile.
The smiles and professionalism of these two patient services specialists mean the world not only to patients but also to the clinic's staff and providers, who nominated Lawson and Moreno for the Distinguished Staff Team Award.
"I can't think of any other team that better exemplifies distinguished staff at the University of Washington," says Laura Collins, clinic manager. She adds that the attributes of this winning team include their great expertise, strong work ethic, go-to attitude and broad rapport with staff and patients.
Looking at their administrative job functions is one way to understand how they contribute to the smooth running of the clinic. When patients arrive, Lawson and Moreno discreetly notify the providers (approximately 20 psychiatry residents and 25 psychiatry faculty). They also schedule, in person and by telephone, patient appointments in the clinic and several other primary care clinics.
As the senior member of the team, Lawson has been an employee at Harborview for more than 15 years. Her areas of expertise include coding patient visits and making sure that all regulatory requirements are met for documentation and billing. During his eight years at Harborview, Moreno has concentrated on referrals from internal and external providers. He also screens patients for insurance coverage and refers them to financial counseling if needed.
Along with these clinic functions, Lawson and Moreno both excel at handling people and crises. "I remember when we had the earthquake," Lawson says. "We had to make sure we got everybody out and down the stairs. By the time we got across the street, the building was really shaking, but we did get everybody out."
While earthquakes are fortunately not part of their daily routine, dealing with people in crisis is a common occurrence. Sometimes, the need is to help people on the phone, who call for help with anger management, depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide. Other times, it can be people who arrive in the clinic agitated and frustrated by not being able to access the services they need.
In these situations, Lawson and Moreno immediately try to determine what is going on and how they can help. On occasion, this requires escorting the patient to the Emergency Department. More often, they manage to de-escalate the crisis by creating a comforting environment, serving coffee and water, speaking calmly and providing needed resources.
With many patients, the greatest reward is seeing the benefits of therapy. "A lot of times people are getting better," Moreno says. "They become more responsive and linger by our desk to talk." Likewise, Lawson says that helping patients feel good makes her feel good. She is also delighted that many come back to say "hi" even when no longer in treatment.
While they describe winning the Distinguished Staff Award as a bit overwhelming, they are extremely grateful for the high esteem shown by their colleagues and for the team honor.
"Alejandro and I work as a team, and we work well as a team," says Lawson. "He is fun and always looks to help." Even though she initially trained Moreno, they now mentor each other to keep up with rapid changes in billing and documentation.
Moreno views his teammate in the same way. "We help out as much as possible and cross train to cover for each other." What impresses him most is how Lawson talks to people on the phone. "Her voice is very calming. She never sounds upset or stressed out."
When not at work, Lawson enjoys walking and riding her bike along the Green River Trail in Tukwila. She is also taking knitting classes at Harborview's Patient and Family Resource Center with the goal of making hats and scarves for friends and relatives.
Moreno relaxes by cooking, gardening, reading, hiking and painting Ukrainian Easter eggs (known as pysankas). In addition, this native of Texas has a secret for enjoying life in Seattle. He loves the rain!