2021 Week 2: Healthcare/Health Policy

OZIOMA ANYANWU | MOMCARES

Week 2 of CIIP was primarily focused on independent research and reflection. Over the past year and a half, like everyone else, I’ve gotten accustomed to carrying out my life on my computer. Classes, meetings, and interactions with family and friends alike all took place through a 13-inch LED screen. Frankly speaking, for a while I didn’t necessarily miss being in person all that much. Although draining, conducting everything on Zoom started to feel like second nature at some point in 2020. So, in that regard, the past week has been great. But I’ve also come to realize I may be outgrowing that feeling of comfort.

During Week 2 I’ve spent a lot of my time doing independent research centered around finding speakers for the Young Mother’s program this summer. My main tasks have been researching speakers that focus on two different topics: intimate partner violence/domestic violence as well as resume writing/professionalism. Through my research, I’ve learned about amazing organizations like House of Ruth that facilitate countless programs and training targeted towards ending violence against women and children.

That being said, as natural as working over my computer may have seemed to me, I’ve also encountered my own obstacles. At times some days feel exceptionally longer. Other times I spend researching an organization or prospect speaker that leads to a dead end. But it’s through my own self-motivation that I find gems like House of Ruth or get to learn more about an organization even though they may not be an eventual speaker. In short, regardless of whether my research goes the way I expect; there’s still progress coming out of it (and as a plus it makes things more exciting).

I’ve come to realize that what I’ve liked most about my tenure at Zoom University is the control or the perceived predictability of every meeting and interaction. In stark contrast, I’ve already learned so much in my independent research, both about the speakers I’ve been researching and myself, something I didn’t expect to encounter so early on. To sum up, in orientation we talked about “being comfortable being uncomfortable” and after this week I feel ready to face that feeling head-on.

CARLOS BURI-NAGUA | CENTRO SOL

During the week, I spent the majority of my time preparing the research curriculum and content for Centro SOL’s Summer Scholars program, which has been a reflective experience as I recall my first experience diving into research. Despite the reflective aspect of my week’s duties, one challenging part I have been facing is staying focus on my duties. At times, it isn’t easy to separate my workspace between professional and personal aspects, and this challenge originated from the virtual transition. Since the pandemic has started, my workspace has been a place where I would work on assignments and a place where I would watch a Netflix series or chat with friends. During this period, the majority of my time was spent indoors, which opened my eyes to the genuinely multi-functional aspects of computers, and I understand that part of it stems from my accessibility to reliable internet.

However, after some time, it became difficult for me to distinguish these two environments as switching tabs with two different purposes (Google Spreadsheet or Netflix) became easy with one single click. Therefore, even though I had the opportunity to work on balancing these two environments during the school year, it has been challenging to transition the type of work I do for school to the work I do for CentroSOL. Despite being more passionate about completing my assignments for Centro SOL and providing meaningful research content for Latinx youth, I continuously remind myself not to change tabs to access another distraction quickly, such as Facebook.

I understand the benefits and flexibility that virtual work brings, but I am now seeing the cons it can hold. Overall, this experience has made me miss in-person work environments, not just because of the social aspect. To this day, I am often inspired to continue working as hard as I can since, with one glance to the left or right, I am reminded that I am surrounded by colleagues that are just as hard-working and passionate. In other words, I appreciate being in a community that drives each other to continue working as hard, and it seems that I have lost that sense in a virtual platform. However, I plan on adapting strategies that I used during the school year to better balance my workplace’s professional and personal aspects.

JULIA BURLESON | BALTIMORE HARM REDUCTION COALITION

This week has been all about flexibility. At the beginning of the week, I thought I would spend most of my week doing more readings again, but my week quickly shifted when BHRC was behind on kit assembly for their services this week. I ended up spending a day carefully counting and bagging cotton balls and assembling hygiene kits while talking to volunteers and BHRC staff members. I got to know them better on a personal and professional level and hear more about what happens at BHRC’s outreach initiatives and the history behind why we operate in the locations that we do. Last week, I felt like I was missing a lot of those personal connections and conversations because I was mostly virtual. But this week, I went into the office for twice as long as I originally planned and started to establish relationships with the people there.

Being in the office more this week, I found myself trying to figure out what the boundaries were. For example, I quickly learned that staff often don’t take breaks and each lunch together on my first full day in the office. I only expected to stay until noon, but a task came up that required me to stay for the afternoon. I didn’t pack lunch, so I planned to order lunch from a nearby restaurant during the lunch break. I thought the office might take a collective break and have lunch since we have a communal office space and no lunchroom, so I kept working and waited until people took a break for lunch. I kept working until 2:30pm when my supervisor asked if I had eaten and then promptly sent me home to get food. That day, I also learned that everyone was also very busy, so while I was told that breaks were encouraged, I never saw anyone take a real break, which made me feel like I should also keep working. Making sure to pack a lunch and take time for breaks and lunch even if everyone else is still working at that time will be important for both my mental and physical health this summer.

Another boundary that I am still trying to navigate is how casual I can be with my coworkers. I love how informal and friendly the atmosphere and people at BHRC are. However, I struggle to know how casual is too casual for me to be with everyone and if I should keep being more formal until I become closer with everyone. I am used to being in very vertically structured organizations both in school and work. However, BHRC has a semi-horizontal organization and values consensus among all staff members for most decisions. While it’s interesting and refreshing to work in a more horizontally structured organization, I am still figuring out where I fall into the structure as the intern and how I should interact with my coworkers.

KOYE OPUTA | EPISCOPAL REFUGEE & IMMIGRANT CENTER ALLIANCE

With the past year’s remote school work, internships, and family responsibilities, I never questioned whether my work had been made harder by the pandemic. I put my head down and did the work.

However, my first week of work with ERICA was entirely in-person. I was once again in a space with energetic people, and an environment designed for work. I found myself able to tackle a large number of projects with surprising ease.

The second week was three days of remote work. As I returned to work in my bedroom, I was more aware of the greater energy expenditure required by remote work. Once again, I had to be diligent with setting alarms and phone reminders to ensure I did not miss any meetings. I returned to using Pomodoro techniques to refresh my brain–splitting my work between large intervals focused on primary projects, and smaller intervals focused on administrative tasks to keep myself focused.

Remote work also meant making supervisor communications more meaningful. There were no check-ins for a quick question. I was careful to be clear on assignments before meetings ended to avoid wasting time with hyper frequent questions. Despite my efforts to be explicit, there were still moments when I was left with unclear assignment objectives. In times like these, I did the work to the best of my ability alongside the counsel of Google’s best scholars. This proved to be effective, even when I had to make some tweaks after the mid-day meeting.

Spending the last year in a pandemic, I am no stranger to remote work. However, it was not until I had the opportunity to return to in-person work that I learned more specifically about my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to team-based work, and how I can best support myself and my supervisor.

INDIRA SUMMERVILLE | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

A challenge that I have been facing this past week is honestly working 9-5 in-person. Throughout the past year and a half, all of my classes have been virtual, along with the job I have during the school year. This very sudden and drastic transition to 4-5 days of work in person for 8 hours/day for the majority of the week has definitely been rewarding, but did not come without its challenges. For example, I am not a morning person, so waking up early to get ready and taking the bus in itself was, and continues to be, an adjustment. While it is not my first time having a 9-5 type of job, it has been a while, and my body is honestly just not used to it! I have also seen changes in my productivity levels throughout the day, both in-person and remotely. I have found that I am most productive in the first half of the day, and in person. But, after a certain amount of time I find myself getting less productive, and yearning to complete my tasks remotely. Fortunately, my supervisor, Jenny, has been extremely understanding throughout this transition, and we have worked through a more consistent schedule that better reflects my strengths and productivity patterns. I look forward to learning more about how my body has adjusted through remote work for the past year and a half, and being more mindful about how it is transitioning through this change in work environment.

MICHAEL VIDAL | ESPERANZA CENTER

In this week, the internship has fully integrated into my summer routine. I have a pattern — from the morning getting dressed, the day-to-day tasks at the clinic, to the drive back home. Although some dread the normalcy, I take it as evidence of routine within the clinic. As the routine becomes common, I can begin to work more efficiently, leaving more space for other projects.

Communication is incredibly important for me. It allows the exchange of ideas between people with unique experiences and perspectives. I decided to test my communication this week. As trust grows, I have been tasked with refining and verifying the community resources given to patients. Due to COVID, many of the services offered in the community have changed or require extra steps before being utilized. Going through the established resources, I felt something was missing. Where are the resources for LGBTQ+ patients? And what of those experiencing domestic violence? These question prompted a conversation with my supervisor to expand my project to create a resource sheet that is targeted to individual needs, removing the need from the patient to contact and vet the resources. This is helpful as many patients are limited in resources and time. Any way for expediting the process is precious for the clinic’s patients.

For those experiencing domestic violence, I proposed to my supervisor a peer-reviewed method of helping. In courses, I learned that placing simple, semi-discreet pamphlets in bathrooms gives survivors an opportunity to get resources without fear of retaliation from their partners or the hesitancy of disclosing to a doctor. Currently, doctors in the clinic screen patients, and while this is a prime method help survivors, the pamphlets allow those unable to a much needed resource. For this, I am to develop a presentation for the next staff meeting elaborating the idea for group consensus.

These moments of extra, independent responsibility show the collaborative nature of community organizations. It is fun to add learned material to a new setting. The trust and openness of clinic staff is even more so rewarding. These patients deserve any and all support the clinic can provide. I’m looking forward to contributing to that help and hearing the feedback in the upcoming staff meeting!

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