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HSD Employee Spotlight—Mary Pat O’Leary

Mary Pat helped Age Friendly Seattle and other City and County staff assemble 389 emergency kit back packs last year.

Mary Pat O’Leary is a Senior Planner in the Seattle Human Services Department’s Aging and Disability Services (ADS) division. She has worked at Seattle Human Services for 28 years.

Mary Pat makes frequent community presentations, including a recent Age Friendly Civic Coffee about falls prevention at the South East Senior Center. View it here.

What is your role at Seattle Human Services?

I am a Senior Planner with Aging and Disability Services, Area Agency on Aging, and I have been a nurse for over 44 years.

What made you want to work in human services?

Human Services aligns with my passion and interest to help everyone live their best lives.  I have dedicated my life to caring for and caring for people, particularly older adults and those living with disabilities.

How has your job changed in recent years?

My goodness, nursing has changed in so many ways, from electronic health records, telehealth visits, pressure injury treatment advances, and working in multidisciplinary teams. Though many nurses no longer work at the patient’s “bedside”, we still utilize our unique skill set, as do all the Aging and Disability Services and contracted agency nurses. Focusing holistically when caring for the entire person is essential when providing support to those aging with multiple health challenges.

What do you love about your job?

I love the variety of work that I am privileged to do every day. I am fortunate to work collaboratively with state partners, the University of Washington Faculty, housing providers, and our wonderful community-based agencies. I participate in the Dementia Action Collaborative, the Geriatric Workforce Enhance Center, work with pharmacy staff on the senior drug education program, lead trainings and workshops for evidence-based programs, help with onboarding new nursing staff, and lead our Community Aging in Place, Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program pilot.

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity?

Mary Pat at left, with quiltmakers Karen Messo and Jane Crum, and veteran Lori Sanford (all three now retired from HSD).

Mary Pat at left, with quiltmakers Karen Messo and Jane Crum, and veteran Lori Sanford (all three now retired from HSD). The quilt memorializes Mary Pat’s father, Francis S. O’Leary, Jr. Pvt, 2nd Marine Division, WWII, 1942-1944, among other veterans. It is on permanent display on the 51st floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower.

I ensure that all my work includes a racial equity lens. Addressing racial equity is important for staff as well as for the clients we serve. As a recent health promotion event, I presented to older Vietnamese and Chinese speaking adults. I utilized specific health examples, including food choices, various types of exercise, including Tai Chi, and cultural and ethnic influences, utilizing 2 interpreters for the presentation.  

What motivates you or keeps you going?

Establishing and nourishing meaningful relationships with staff within HSD and throughout the broader community keeps me going and keeps me motivated. After 28+ years with the City, I still love the challenge of new projects, looking at trends, and forecasting for future work and collaborative opportunities.

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?

Always be open to learning and stay curious! Each day brings adventures, challenges, and opportunities to test your skills, knowledge, and resolution. As Mayou Angelou shared, people may not always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. Everyone should leave an interaction with us feeling valued, supported, and appreciated.