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Employee Spotlight- Michele Heartsong

Interview by Alexander Waitt:

Michele Heartsong has been an integral member of the Vital Decisions workforce for over 8 years. She has evolved with the company starting as a healthcare counselor into what’s now known as the Specialist role. She has offered her many talents along the way such as gifting our staff with occasional yoga classes, piloting our Guided Living Voice program, and adding to our company culture through her work on various committees. Michele was an optometrist for 20 years before earning her Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

☀  You used to be a Doctor – talk about the transition to what you do now.

As a doctor for 20 years, I was very used to the role of giving advice, we were taught to jump right in with offering guidance – I felt I was helping others by sharing what I know. One of my biggest learning curves in this role has been to integrate my education as a Dr. with my role now, a role in which the primary goal is to help others to clarify their wants and needs, rather than telling them what I may believe would help.

I listen more, speak less, ask permission to offer information and then, with permission, offer as much as clients want. It was not easy to change something that had been so second nature. Through coaching and feedback over time in this position, I truly see the benefit in hearing what others wants and need. I can see how rewarding it is for the people I serve to be the drivers in an ongoing decision making process.

☀  What personal experiences have shaped your work?

I personally have dealt with many losses in my personal life. I understand how anticipatory grief can sometimes make the kinds of conversations we have especially hard. My own ongoing work and healing through grief informs my work and the need for kindness above all as I approach each conversation. I am confident in being able to hear any situation and sit with another through the pain of their experiences and what they may be facing, and offer my whole self in being present with them on each call.

☀ What makes Vital Decisions different than any other organization you’ve been a part of?

Vital Decisions invests in the professional development of their employees on a scale I have never experienced elsewhere. The company invests time and training on an ongoing basis to help strengthen the quality of service we provide to clients.

Because we provide services via phone and video, I get to speak with people from across the country, from greatly differing backgrounds and experiences. This is both a challenge and an opportunity to find common language and understanding. The ability to connect with such diverse people, even within a day, isn’t possible through other positions where you might be limited to just one area or one population.

☀ What engages you most about this job?

Knowing that I am able to help clients and their families process, helping them to take steps they want to take with their health decisions, being of service, gives me a sense of meaning and brings me to work every day.

☀ What would be helpful for potential candidates to know about Vital Decisions or about your role?

It’s important to be open to change and learning new and different ways of doing this job. There have been many changes in the eight years I have been here. A willingness to learn and change is important.

Natalie Menendez, Specialist
Natalie Menendez, Specialist
“I have the pleasure of being able to refer to Michele as my respected colleague, as well as a dear friend. Michele has a unique professional history, and over the years I have personally gained through her insight and perspective into to the work we do with our clients. Above all, I know Michele to be a specialist who, without fail, places her focus on the needs and wellbeing of her clients, prioritizing their best interests with genuine care and concern. Michele is a true asset to our organization.”
“I’ll share that Michele is an empathetic and determined individual with a desire connect with clients and meet them where they are. This shines through in her work as a specialist/coordinator as well in her desire to support culture with team members. It is a gift for me to have worked closely with her over the course of this year.”
Steve Gramiak, Guided Living Voice Supervisor
Steve Gramiak, Guided Living Voice Supervisor
Shoshana Miller, Specialist
Shoshana Miller, Specialist
‘Michele, like her last name, is so full of heart. She brings her care and attentiveness to her work with her clients and to her interactions with co-workers. She is a great listener, a hard worker, dedicated and kind. I am so grateful to know her!”
“Michele brings her whole self to this work and we are extremely grateful for the years of service she has provided to Vital Decisions, the various roles she has held, and her overall compassion and concern for the people she works with. She is a true gem.”
Tracy Brubaker, COO
Tracy Brubaker, COO
Ariana Noto, Vice President of Clinical Operations
Ariana Noto, Vice President of Clinical Operations
“Michele is a highly skilled and compassionate clinician. In the time that I have known Michele I’ve always been struck by her ability to authentically see and care for others. Michele is dedicated to her clinical work and committed to each individual she serves. I’m truly grateful to know and work with Michele Heartsong!”