2021 Week 3: Healthcare/Health Policy
My keyword for Week Three was perspective. The past few weeks one of my favorite aspects of CIIP has been participating in our Bites sessions; especially when we’re in person. Firstly, I get the opportunity to learn about these local organizations from a first-person perspective which is something you can’t really get from an Instagram page or an “About Us!” blurb. Hearing from everyone that ins and out of their work (ups and downs included) tells me more than I could ever learn on my own. So, I love being able to learn about the work that my fellow participants are doing in their placements and sharing my own experiences as well.
Secondly, in our Bites session, I have the opportunity to reflect amongst a group of people who are encountering some of the same situations or personal realizations in our respective placements. For example, this past week my partners and I were discussing how we’ve been going through a transition in multiple ways. For me, it’s been a transition to my own self-motivated work. For others, it’s been a transition to the demands of a full-time internship in person in comparison to the last year and a half of our reality.
Overall, this week reminded me that I have the ability to look at things differently. In most situations, it’d be easy to compare my experience to others. Some weeks when someone describes a particularly high or involved workload, I feel like I’m not doing enough in my own independent work. Other weeks people sound so positive when I may have struggled in one way or another.
But this week in our reflection I learned that everyone feels that feeling. We innately compare ourselves to one other because it’s the easiest thing to do. However, I don’t think the work we’re doing exists on a linear spectrum. No one is doing better or worse in comparison because we’re on such different journeys. So, from on out, I’m going to practice remembering that my perspective is just that; my own. Which means I can make the decision to see everything in the best light but also give myself the grace to not live up to some perceived perfection.
A typical day of work at Centro SOL begins with reviewing emails, checking the team’s Google Voice account for any messages from the Latinx youth or parents, and preparing for the day by practicing presentations. On some days, I will help facilitate or lead the summer program’s morning check-in with announcements and community-building activities. Last week, I had the opportunity to start our Wednesday check-in with a journaling session, and it was a great experience to give the students a chance to express their emotions in writing. On other days, students start their day with Spanish Instruction and Community Engagement sessions, in which I also help facilitate the session with the Spanish Instructor. All days after the morning check-ins or Spanish instruction, students have SAT live instruction, which I do not attend as another organization works with the students.
When I am not on a zoom call, I am either practicing the research presentations I present to the students in the afternoon or creating the lesson plans for future presentations. I also make sure that all google forms, jam boards, links, etc., are working fine so that the research presentations flow nicely. Additionally, I have my one-on-one meetings with my supervisor to review all of my content and ask questions. I am incredibly appreciative of these meetings because I always feel supported. After a quick lunch break, I present my research presentations, consisting of a warm-up, new content, interactive element, and a deliverable. This summer, and thank you to my supervisor for the suggestion, I created a graphic organizer for students to work on throughout the week and summer to collect their thoughts and ultimately see their progress.
After the research presentations, I assist with the day’s last program: sessions about soft skills/professionalism, guest speakers, or fun art activities in collaboration with another organization. After the program’s day, there is a summer team daily check-in with my supervisor and the other intern. I appreciate the daily check-ins because they allow me to reflect on the day with the team! After these check-ins, I end the day by finishing some of my daily responsibilities, such as inputting attendance or communicating with Centro SOL’s community partners.
Now that I’ve been with BHRC for three weeks, I’ve settled into a daily routine. I start a typical day of work by going into the office and assembling one of the many kits BHRC provides to people who use their services. Every day, I work on a different kit with different people. Sometimes I talk about social justice issues with the other interns and staff while assembling bags of cotton balls for our safer injection kit. Other times, I wrap glass pipes in paper for our safer smoking kits while another intern shares her music and tells me about the music-making process. This part of the day is the main time when I learn about the interests and lives of the other interns and staff members. We laugh together, rant together, and have a lot of fun talking in general during this time.
After a few hours, I open my laptop and transition to working on one of my three main summer projects. The first project is the summer survey for people who use BHRC services. Until now, I’ve been working with one of my supervisors to draft questions for the survey to learn more about what we can improve during our service outreach and how satisfied people who use our services are with them. I’ve also written survey instructions for the service interns who will administer the survey over the next few months, and created a codebook for the survey. We’re getting ready to begin data collection this week, and I’m really excited to read the survey responses soon!
The second project I’m involved with is BHRC’s annual Celebration of Life event at the end of August. The purpose of the event is to honor the lives of those we’ve lost and celebrate those who are still here. Before the pandemic, we rented out a space in the community and had lots of food, music, dancing, and in-person fun with people who are connected with and support BHRC! This year, the event is virtual, but we are working hard to incorporate lots of music, dancing, and fun in the event! There will also be a great raffle with gift certificates and items from local businesses and items that our staff make! We’re still in the beginning stages of planning, so I am currently reaching out to businesses to ask for raffle donations and brainstorming event programming ideas with my coworkers.
My last project is helping to organize BHRC’s Google Drive. With so many files and no real filing system, the Drive has become confusing and stressful for staff to navigate. I’ve been meeting with staff to better understand how everyone uses the Drive and how to best reorganize and rename files in a way that makes sense to everyone and causes the least amount of discomfort during the reorganization period.
I really appreciate how my projects allow me to work with almost everyone in BHRC. I’ve met incredible people with vastly different backgrounds from mine. Some people are stand-up comedians who, in addition to working at BHRC, are involved with other community organizations in the city. Other people have lived in Maryland for the majority of their lives and are incredibly knowledgeable about state and local politics and policies. I’ve loved getting to know everyone in my office and being able to chat about random things now that I work in person four days of the week. I’m excited to see how my projects and relationships with the staff and volunteers evolve over the next five weeks!
KOYE OPUTA | EPISCOPAL REFUGEE & IMMIGRANT CENTER ALLIANCE
My days often start with smiles. From Sally at the front desk, Kait in interdepartmental support, Bob in maintenance, or whomever else I may encounter on my way upstairs. Betty, my supervisor, is often hard at work with some task, or conversing with another staff member. While I wait to begin our morning check-in, I resume research for ongoing projects, or make calls.
After about fifteen minutes, Betty is ready to set our goals for the day. We review progress from the previous day’s work, or prepare for a meeting with a program participant— the latter often occupying a large part of our day.
No meeting is the same. From one program participant, I gather a glimpse of what it is to come to the U.S. with two kids, a baby, and no job prospects. From another, I learn how some Baltimore community members have come to support one another, or how others have come to scorn each other. From another, I learn how social security benefits could potentially serve a green-card holder.
With each meeting, I realize all the more how learning is paramount in my job. To welcome a stranger and make them someone known, they need to know more about the community that they’re joining—which means I need to know more about that community. Of course, knowing a person comes first in welcoming them, and it is a value never to be overlooked. However, as someone who has lived in the U.S. my whole life, I did not properly recognize how an understanding of my surroundings contributed to my ability to welcome a person, until I watched my supervisor—someone far more familiar with Baltimore and migrant life in the U.S.—commit herself to continue learning more on a near-daily basis, as if she had known nothing the day before. I noticed not only how she made herself aware of the news headlines, social infrastructure changes in Baltimore, and migration policies, but also made sure she understood them well enough to adjust how she introduces program participants to their new homes.
After such meetings, I often spend the rest of the day learning. Perhaps about job opportunities for a participant, or how the UN vets refugees so I can properly disseminate such information in an orientation program. Or sometimes, it is learning that the day is nowhere near over, and we have another task to get done before heading home.
ERICA’s greatest focus is to serve and welcome each person, however they may need. No person is the same, so no day is the same. It means no routine and little slack, but it privileges us to welcome program participants the way they ought to be.
INDIRA SUMMERVILLE | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC
During a typical day at Shepherd’s Clinic, I will arrive between 8:50 and 9:00 AM with my backpack full of my supplies, including the flats that I change into (walking in flats is quite undesirable to me) and a lunch usually consisting of leftovers from the previous night. Once I sign in and get settled, I begin my day at the front desk. The clinic relies heavily on volunteers, who do everything from front desk duties, to more administrative projects. Therefore, there is a list of daily tasks designated for front desk volunteers created by my supervisor, who is also the Patient Intake Coordinator.
Throughout my day of work, I tackle that list of daily tasks along with my fellow front desk volunteers. These tasks include making reminder calls for patients who have upcoming appointments, scheduling patients, screening and rescreening patients, and some other miscellaneous tasks that may need to be completed on that specific day. At Shepherd’s, there are very specific eligibility criteria for patients to be seen at the clinic, including income cutoffs, insurance status, and zip code restrictions. This is because we are a completely free clinic for those who are uninsured, and our services are limited as a result. Therefore, the criteria are necessary, and screening and rescreening patients for these requirements is essential to the continued success of the clinic in its mission to serve the uninsured population in Baltimore. In my first few days at the clinic, I was mostly making these rescreening calls to patients, which was definitely an interesting experience. I was able to really interact with patients, hearing some of their stories and their appreciation for the clinic. It did not come without its challenges, especially with having to tell some patients that they would not be able to be seen at Shepherd’s as a result of being unable to meet those criteria. Those moments are definitely hard as I can only imagine the extreme stress that comes with trying to find healthcare while uninsured, or needing to adjust where you are receiving healthcare. These situations really allow me to not only recognize my privilege as a health insurance holder, but also to exercise using empathy and compassion when talking to patients, and people in general.
Along with those daily tasks, I am also working on a project of my own, which is to organize resources from local Community Based Organizations that work to uplift and serve Baltimore residents in various aspects of their lives. I am putting this resource together because the majority of people who come to Shepherd’s are facing more challenges than healthcare, such as food insecurity, homelessness, and unemployment. This resource is meant to give our patients quick access to other organizations that address the things that we can’t. Doing both the front desk duties and working on my own project has been the bulk of my experience at Shepherd’s, and I enjoy the work I do very much!
MICHAEL VIDAL | ESPERANZA CENTER
This week was full of reflection and change. The clinic work is routine. Everyday patients need to be called to make appointments, answer questions, or address concerns. However, within this routine, “outsider” tasks shine through.
Some are abrupt, sudden needs of the clinic to address a gap in care. For example, I am updating and adding resources given to patients as the city transitions from COVID regulations. Organizations are changing their policies, such as allowing walk-ins. Without these sources, the patients cannot access essential care. As mentioned last week, easing the healthcare process for patients vastly improves their outcomes. There are fewer missed appointments, dropped patients, and unused resources. The clinic’s patients are undocumented and — many — Spanish-only. The stark difference of American, English-dominant, Baltimore City to their familiar home is overwhelming for many. The stress of the transition is constantly at the forefront of clinic staff’s minds. Their empathy for the struggles of a made-invisible Baltimore community elevated the potential and impact of their work.
Aside from the clinic, there are organizational tasks. On Friday, clinic staff spent the day at Art with a Heart for a mosaic installation for the organizations “Client Services” department. The mosaic is massive, approximately 26-by-10 feet. The design uses meticulously researched inspiration from Central American communities to represent those the organization serves. Every clinic member contributes to the design: breaking different colored tiles and placing them onto the larger piece in self-inspired patterns. The excitement of staff is proof of the energy and care that makes Esperanza a essential resource for Baltimore’s immigrant community. I’m glad to experience these eight weeks at Esperanza.
My place within the clinic reveals itself from these experiences. I am here to support. I am here to give space for clinic staff to channel their energy into the patients. Every task I accomplish allows Esperanza to center the capacity to extend its arms further. With few exceptions, my long-term presence is negligible for the clinic. Esperanza already knows what to do, how to adapt, and how to thrive. Instead, my brief time is a temporary relief for staff that go beyond their traditional position roles. Of course, the opposite is not true. I will carry the observations and lessons long into my future. The benefits are largely unbalanced in my favor. To repay, I must apply my experience critically and thoughtfully to future personal, work, and community projects.Tags: 2021, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, Centro SOL, Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance, Erica, Esperanza Center, Health, Healthcare, Keswick Multicare Center, MOMCares, Shepherd's Clinic