A Buzzworthy Mascot Brings Team Spirit to Patient Care

Duke Urgent Care Hillsborough team draws inspiration from bees

Katelyn Thomas and Amanda Riggins.

Forward Together

Working@Duke shares stories of how individuals, schools, departments and units build a positive culture at Duke.

Office spaces feature bee-related items such as a stuffed bee in the office of Health Center Administrator Katelyn Thomas, and a black-and-gold sign on the bulletin board in Nurse Manager Amanda Riggins’ office says:

“Anyone who thinks they’re too small to make a difference has never met a honey bee.”

This is the work home of the “Hillsborough Honey Bees,” the name the roughly 30-member clinic staff adopted last year.

“We’re one hive working together,” said Clinical Nurse Margaret Wiseman. “We all just work really hard together. Everybody is on the same page.”

Clinical Nurse Margaret Wiseman stands next to one of the bee decals she helped supply for the clinic. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

As workplaces have evolved in recent years, Working@Duke is sharing stories through its “Forward Together” series to feature how individuals, schools, departments and units are building community.

In an urgent care setting, which fills the gap between a hospital emergency department and a primary care setting, caregivers help patients of all ages deal with a wide range of pressing concerns seven days a week. The Duke Urgent Care Hillsborough clinic in Hillsborough often sees around 110 patients per day.

Not long after joining the clinic in late 2022, Health Center Administrator Katelyn Thomas hatched the idea of finding a fitting mascot to help her team feel united in the face of daily challenges.

Clinics across Duke have used mascots – ducks, lizards, crows and flamingos – to build identity and camaraderie.

 In early 2023, inspired by the selflessness, diligence and work ethic of bees, Thomas floated the idea of making the honeybee her team’s unofficial symbol.

“We liked what the honey bee signifies, they’re really strong, they’re intellectual, and they’re community-oriented,” Thomas said. “Plus we’re also up on the second floor, which kind of feels like being up in a hive. It just made sense and grew from there.”

Many team members at the Duke Urgent Care Hillsborough clinic use badge holders featuring bee images. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Before long, the team embraced the concept, and Thomas and Nurse Manager Amanda Riggins presented each team member to get badge holders bearing the image of a bee ringed by words such as “kind,” “positive,” “confident” and “brave.”

Ian Lee Brown, Duke University Health System Vice President and Chief Employee Experience Officer said organic, team-oriented touches like the Hillsborough clinic’s mascot help staff members feel supported.

“People want to stay within an organization where they feel they are valued, empowered, and that there’s clarity in what they’re doing,” Brown said. “We want people to feel connected and know they are a part of something bigger than themselves. When an organization puts people first, allowing employees at any level to feel that their ideas matter, I think people will stay, thrive and find joy in the daily work they do.”

Beyond the decorative touches, Riggins said the honey bee theme has created awareness of the collaborative climate that clinic team members aim to create.

“We love having the bee merch, but it has to be more than that,” Riggins said. “We want it to remind us about what it means to be part of this team and about what kind of team we are.”

If your Duke team has a fun story about building a positive workplace culture, we want to share it for a potential future Forward Together story. Send us a note and a photo and tell us your team’s story.

Send story ideas, shout-outs and photographs through our story idea form or write working@duke.edu.

Follow Working@Duke on X (Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.