Voices of Hennepin Healthcare: Semora Murrell
A Treasured Welcome Representative Shares Her Passion and Hope for Hennepin Healthcare
When you walk into Hennepin Healthcare, you may be lucky enough to meet Semora Murrell, a welcome services representative with a big, impossible-to-forget smile. “I’m the first face you see,” she says. “I can chat with everyone, I know some of everybody.”
“The role has a simple title, but many things come along with it,” says Semora, who is celebrating eight years of working at Hennepin Healthcare. “Most people believe it’s just greeting people and sending them on their way, but it’s much more than that. We are the face of Hennepin Healthcare.”
In her role, Semora connects with many of Hennepin Healthcare’s patients and team members — so much so that she says she has a “fan base” that looks and asks for her whenever she’s on vacation.
Now, Hennepin Healthcare is in the midst of a planning process to advance health equity within the system and across our entire community. Here, Semora shares her thoughts about this effort, what makes Hennepin Healthcare so unique, as well as her hope for the future.
How Semora Supports Patients with Empathy
Semora’s days not only include helping patients navigate the building, clinics, regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19, interpretation services, parking, and transportation — but also creating a comfortable, safe environment where everyone feels welcome.
She sees and supports patients on the best and worst days of their lives. “I see people who are traumatized after losing a loved one and those who are ecstatic as they bring their first baby home,” she recounts. “I see a lot of joy, along with the bad and the sad.”
Semora deeply values — and excels at — working within a highly diverse community. “I mean, it’s downtown Minneapolis,” she exclaims. “It doesn’t get any better than that! There’s never a dull moment.”
“I’ve been through a lot,” she continues, “so I can relate to our patients. Being empathetic is so important. It’s a big part of how we help others at Hennepin Healthcare.”
A fluent Spanish speaker, Semora embraces the daily opportunity to connect with Spanish-speaking patients. “I went to a Spanish immersion school growing up,” she says. “I love speaking Spanish at work every day, but it’s a lot different than what we learned in school. I quickly learned Spanish slang from around the world, medical terms, healthcare jargon. It can be chaotic to interpret for patients from different Spanish-speaking areas, but I’m happy to mend and blend.”
Semora understands the importance and power of her role. “I’m one of the first faces you see at Hennepin Healthcare. I have to adapt, with an understanding that everybody comes from a different background,” she explains. “I’ve learned so much about life and death and celebration in other cultures: Ramadan, Tibetan New Year — you name it. And I love it.”
Her Vision for Community Health
When considering Hennepin Healthcare’s effort to create a more just and equitable system that promotes our community’s health, Semora says, “Realizing this dream will not be an overnight process, but it can be done here. We need a blueprint and training and time and incentives. But it can be done.”
Semora emphasizes how many resources Hennepin Healthcare has. “We have so many programs and resources and tools that people can use: violence prevention programs, programs for victims of violence, and so many more,” she says.
“It’s a matter of helping patients connect to them,” she asserts. “Social workers are vital for this. We need more psychiatric help, more helpers.”
Insights for Increasing Employee Empathy and Equity
To make Hennepin Healthcare more equitable, Semora wants to see an increase in staff diversity, as well as expanded training opportunities and support. “We can get burnt out,” she emphasizes. “Training is needed. Incentives and extra time and appreciation are needed.”
She sees how her fellow team members are eager to learn how to work with people from different backgrounds, different cultures and different circumstances. She knows that all of her fellow team members strive to treat others with respect, empathy and compassion, but they need support to thrive. “We can educate ourselves and not be judgmental or dismissive, to be more empathetic,” she concludes.
The past 18 months have not only been exhausting for Semora and her fellow team members, but also prevented staff from socializing and bonding. “I think back often on the ice cream socials we had before COVID,” recounted Semora. “We all miss them. Who doesn’t love ice cream? Now, I see a lot of people burnt out.”
“I don’t have a leadership role, but I put myself in a leadership position every day I come to work,” she continued. “I take a leadership role in helping others appreciate how and why others are different — and showing how we [at Hennepin Healthcare] are different. When I educate others, they thank and appreciate me.”
In addition to her job, Semora is studying business management at Metropolitan State University. “I hope to step into a leadership position at Hennepin Healthcare,” she stated. “I would be very successful.”
Learn more about our ongoing planning effort and sign up for monthly updates from Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO at HennepinHealthcare.org/ourfuture.