2017 Week Four: Healthcare & Health Policy
This week has been a whirlwind! I cannot believe how fast this internship is going by – it feels like I just got here and I only have about 3-4 more weeks left! I’ve been absolutely loving working at the clinic.
The clinic has been fairly busy and I’ve been getting more up to speed on a lot of the little things that are required as part of daily function of the clinic. For example, when screening a potential new patient, it’s very important to include the total income of the person AND their spouse, along with the number of dependents in the household. This allows us to more fully evaluate whether this person is eligible to become a patient with us. The patient has to fall in a certain income gap – making just enough money to not qualify for medicaid, but not enough to afford insurance.
This week was the last week for one of my coworkers, Blythe, who had been working there all year long and just left for med school last Saturday. Everyone in the clinic got together and had a huge goodbye party for her, which was so sweet. I really appreciate this huge, happy family of the clinic that I’ve become a part of. Of everything, this warmth is my favorite part of working at the clinic.
(And if you’re reading this Blythe, I miss you and hope you have an amazing time in med school <3 )
Other than the trainings BHRC has been doing all over the city, one of its greatest priorities is advocacy. The time has come for a paradigm shift towards safe consumption sites, and I am thrilled to be a part of that here. This week was all about laying the groundwork for it. I am helping make little information cards about safe consumption sites, and why they will help resolve the complicated issue of drug use and overdose. This is part of a larger and important goal of getting the public to think actively about safe consumption sites and why they’re beneficial. If a loved one of yours was engaging in risk-associated behaviors, wouldn’t you want them to do it in a setting where everyone around them was focused on their safety? I know I would. On the side of trainings, I attended a touching event on Saturday where I tabled for BHRC and performed Naloxone trainings. The event was at Baltimore Free Farm where individuals shared their experiences with mental health issues. That there, that night, was a safe space. That’s exactly what safe consumption sites would be. I’m excited to continue my work.
It’s about time I introduce the heart of my placement: its staff.
Bill. Our clinic flirt. In a non-creepy, completely appropriate dad sort of way. If that makes sense.. Oh and of course he has his secondary role as nurse practitioner. Everyone’s name is “Amor” to him. He makes meaningful exchanges with our patients and staff in his fluent Spanglish. He has an unexpected affinity to plants, and is a mean baker. Makes glove balloons for the children that visit. The lack of fluency in the language, the unshared ethnic heritage with our patients is no barrier. Friendship is a universal language after all.
Kate. Our other nurse practitioner. A mom of 2 little ones. Incredible sense of patience. Eases tensions in our clinic. A gentle way about her that exudes warm acceptance. Yesterday, ensured a patient in dire need received her medications without a single cost. Not a native Spanish-speaker but has a perfect accent. Not Latina nor an immigrant but has such a love for all that walk in.
Katie. Our medical director. The momma bear that advocates for our patients. One of the most articulate people I have ever met. She has a way of catching on to small changes, suggestions, ideas and making sure they’re communicated clearly. Can speak about immigration policies and the complexity of gender casually in the lounge while her frozen burrito is heating up.
Wardi. Our pixie-cut, TAP coordinator who works the magic of getting our patients specialty care. Deals with one of the more complicated aspects of our clinic. Yet is the most composed. Calls patients just to see how they’re doing. Always wants to know how everyone feels. And she’s not a doctor. She is a journaler, a lister, an organizer. We flow on the same wavelength. Plus she has this treasured repository of gourmet chocolates on her desk which is partially one of the reasons I come back every day. Or maybe more than partially. Shhh
Bibi. Ah the woman who keeps us afloat and rising. The head of our pack. She helped push the clinic into what it is today. Manages budget, grants, paperwork stuff so we can do the work that we’re here to do. And she still manages to pop into the front desk and immediately catch mistakes made preparing a file or chat with patients in the waiting room. She is staunch. Confident. Strict when she needs to be. And brings chocolate cake for us. She is fierce, with a whole lot of heart. She’s Venezuelan. We tend to be like that.
Monica. Our vibrant Colombian receptionist. The face that people see as they walk in the clinic. The voice we hear in the waiting room as she tells stories about her notorious dog, Bean, to patients. She was gone for 2 weeks and every day patients would ask where she was. She gives our clinic a memorable character. She’s sassy as heck. And surprises me with how sincerely she opens up about her background and her family. Calls me Daniela, like my own family does.
“Mother Theresa” the Pepsi lover. Our nurse who spent years in the OR and then 6 more in Afghanistan. She buys Pepsis in bulk and keeps them next to her posters on sugar free diet. The one who appreciates my goodwill findings. Her gentle frame is deceiving. The strongest in our clinic.
Maria. Our dental assistant from Mexico. High-pitched voice that calms rather than shrills. Deals efficiently and independently with our inconsistent flow of volunteer dentists. Calls the hundreds of patients on our dental waiting list to ensure they come in for the care they need.
Yaneldis. A laugh that is so full it bursts, filling a room and the people in it. A radiance about her that is so abundant it stretches through her frenzied hair, her attentive eyes. She was a chemical engineer in Cuba. She has me read her personal emails to check her English. When we hear the distinct raspy voice, “ayyyy mi vida,” we know Yaneldis is present.
Ashley. Our other summer intern. An uplifting attitude that contagiously spills into others. Has a way of immediately connecting with patients in those 5 minutes she spends during triage, patients open up to her with ease. She brought that sunny quality with her from California. Has a genuine interest in letting Baltimore teach her its charming personality.
I was last to leave the clinic yesterday. I walked down the silent hallway glancing at our patient status board. The board, normally sporting intense scribbles of room assignments and chief complaints is wiped clean. A single note from one of the staff remains: hasta pronto mis amigos! I smile to myself and understand Wardi’s response when I asked her why she works here: “The people.”
The buzz from the day stubbornly lingers, suspended in the air–as if the echo of activity that filled the room that day is reluctant to leave this place, these people. We have that in common.
With the end of the fiscal year comes the Fourth of July and various reports! Even though it was a shorter work week due to the holiday, the office was as busy as ever. Primarily, I have been working on our SAGECAP monthly June report. This report includes information regarding outreach events, support groups, referrals, behavioral health patients, and educational trainings. It is important to record this information to report to the national Sage program, along with the executive administration team at Chase Brexton. Since the employee primarily responsible for creating the reports left two weeks ago, I volunteered to help fill the gap along with challenging myself to expand my skill set. On Thursday, my co-worker, who works for the national Sage organization and is assigned to Chase Brexton, sat down with me and showed me Excel document that we use to track participants and numbers. At first, it was a little overwhelming, especially considering all the data we had collected over the busy month of June. With sign ups from Pride events and the Pansexual Pancake Breakfast, we had to input many names into the document along with making sure not to duplicate entries. Additionally, we had to determine how all the various lists would be categorized regarding outreach or participant numbers. Afterwards, I was able to extract the number and enter them into a template format from May that I slightly modified. I sent out a draft with questions pertaining to various coworkers since they had access to numbers that I did not. It truly was a team effort as everyone responded quickly and had patience with me when I kept sending out drafts. On the bright side, the report was finalized Friday afternoon and it sounds like I have another reporting project in the future for the Healthcare Equality Index. Needless to say, I am really excited to have hands on experience regarding health care administration and management reporting. It is truly an honor to have gained the trust of my coworkers and to work with such a dedicated group of people.
After the crazy, hectic weeks that I have learned to expect as normal at Star Track, I was in for a surprise. This week was quiet both in regards to outreach but also inside the office. The bubbly energy that fills the office space was much more muted with the quiet schedule but also with many people taking well-deserved time off. This week I wasn’t feeling well so I had taken my own time off- but even then, I was acquainting myself with a different schedule at Star Track. I am very used to constantly having assignments to complete and work to do. This week I had to learn how to seek out new assignments and ask questions to be of service but also learn more about Star Track. I think I have learned a lot about adolescent health and reproductive health, especially in relationship to LBTQ communities. I still think that there is a lot of information about trans care that I haven’t learned or been exposed to. This week, I was introduced to more resources and I had more of a chance to explore my own questions. I think in the upcoming, relatively quieter, weeks at Star Track, I have a much stronger opportunity to ask questions and learn about what comprehensive and sensitive care and advocacy looks like. Whether this learning happens through outreach, in the clinic or in a more administrative fashion, there is a lot of areas that I can push myself in. I have been so lucky that the staff at Star Track is always willing to answer my questions and feed curiosity and now with the time to learn, I can really open myself to a world of care I might not have understood otherwise.Tags: 2017, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, Chase Brexton, CIIP, CIIP 2017, Esperanza Center, LGBT, Shepherd's Clinic, STAR TRACK, Week Four