2022 Week 3: Healthcare
Fatima Baloul | Shepherd’s Clinic
In a knitted blanket, each knot and fabric that intricately intertwines with the rest is so significant in order to create a beautiful piece. The most enjoyable aspect of my time at Shepherd’s Clinic, beyond the patients, has been the sense of community with the nurses, providers, volunteers, and the staff. Shepherd’s Clinic resembles a blanket, with each individual [ fabric ] working cohesively to operate such a vital clinic that serves the community and provides access to healthcare to those that are underprivileged. Over the course of the past week, a volunteer, the referral coordinator at Shepherd’s Clinic, and I strived to create a more sustainable method to provide our patients with nutritious meals. Our clinic is fortunate to have canned foods and a pantry for our patients, but I have encountered challenges in that, a few being that patients may be too weak to carry heavy boxes of food to their homes, or the fact that it may not be an adequate or sufficient amount of food for a patient’s family. We devoted the past week towards entirely rebuilding and launching our SNAP program at Shepherd’s Clinic; we collectively navigated the process of SNAP for our patients, created spreadsheets, and completed an ample amount of research to become experts in SNAP. Through the process of launching our SNAP program at Shepherd’s Clinic, I learned conceptual skills, including patience and being mindful, as I became cognizant of the barriers that our patients experience in accessing quality and nutritious meals.
A day in the life at the Esperanza Center will often begin with morning team meetings in the receptionist area, where in a mix of English and Spanish all of the people who work on the health clinic floor discuss any updates they feel are necessary for the entire group to hear. After this meeting, I pick up one of the laptops from the receptionist area and settle into one of the two desks in an office across the hall from the clinic’s exam rooms. Depending on the day, either the other intern working with me at the clinic this summer will join me at the other desk, or one of the volunteer doctors will sit in that space waiting for his or her first patient to arrive. Typically, I’ll check my Catholic Charities email first thing in the morning to see if there’s any new trainings I need to complete or any emails with relevant information for the day. Next, depending on the day, I will either begin working on the community resource guide for the counties surrounding Baltimore, or I’ll begin making calls to the scheduling lines for the different specialist departments at Johns Hopkins to make appointments for patients based on the referrals they’ve been given by primary care doctors at the clinic. I’ll typically take a lunch break at either noon or 1pm. I’ve been trying to bring food to save money, but some days the other intern and I will walk somewhere nearby to pick up food or coffee. For the last few hours of the day, I will usually switch to doing whatever task I wasn’t doing that morning, so if I worked on the resource document in the morning I’ll start making calls in the afternoon and vice versa.
This last week, one thing that deviated from this usual schedule was a birthday lunch celebration on Friday afternoon. At noon, all of the health clinic workers walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant and ate together. The food was so delicious, I was surprised by how good it was since I’d never heard of it, and I take a lot of pride in my knowledge of Latin restaurants in Baltimore! My supervisor very kindly and very generously covered the cost of my meal (thank you so much again Yane if you’re reading this!). After we sang Las Mañanitas and happy birthday we ate some cake, and I drove the other intern back to her apartment and headed home for the day myself.
My internship has weirdly enough been ever changing. Every week it seems like I’ve had a different routine, with Fridays the only bit of consistency. This is likely to change, as July 5th the Young Mothers program begins (yay!!!). Currently I do remote work Monday -Thursdays, previously consisting of interviews, creating surveys for data collection, creation of presentations for mindfulness, attending and participating in community resource meetings, and organizing details of the YMP. I’m really excited to meet the cohort I’ve been interviewing. 🙂 This past week has been a bit different. I was able to attend/ assist my first community event with Safe Streets. Coupled with moving DOZENS of diapers from storage (they’re heavier than they looked), I was present for the give away which I really enjoyed despite the heat. Friday which is usually when I meet with the program coordinator and the data intern, took a turn as I set up the iPads for the program. I don’t care what anyone says, it should not take as long as it did to set up 10 iPads.
I’m looking forward to July 5th because I’ll have a bit more consistency. I’ll be doing coordination, assisting in research and co-facilitating the program M-Th. Unfortunately this will also be my first week working a different set of hours and I will now be leaving a little after 7pm :(, at least it’s a later start to the day.
Currently, my biggest project is still working with my supervisor to create a training on motivational interviewing for all of the behavioral health staff. Even though it has been quite a while since I was assigned this task, I am still enjoying working on the presentation because I get to thoroughly immerse myself in the current literature and resources out there for this topic. I thought that motivational interviewing was a skill that was only primarily used in clinical settings but to my surprise, other types of organizations such as job agencies and consulting services also apply this skill!
In addition to working on the training, I continue to be involved in DE&I trainings with the rest of the behavioral health staff. This week, we had a wonderful 2 day training that focused on decolonizing mental health and human services, and liberatory practices in regards to how staff show up in communities. While the topic was a bit similar to the training last week, one new topic that I was surprised to learn about was the nonprofit industrial complex. I am still working to digest everything about this topic, but essentially it is rooted in this idea that nonprofits shift the narrative of their purpose to delivering services, rather than working to eliminate systemic causes and oppression that contribute to the need of the nonprofit in the first place. As a result, these systemic issues are not addressed as all, resulting in little to no advancement in actually resolving them.
In a similar vein to this idea of the nonprofit industrial complex is the idea that the nonprofit and social service sector perpetuate a system of white supremacy. My supervisor showed me an extremely eye-opening piece called “When Baltimore Awakens: An Analysis of the Human and Social Service Sector in Baltimore City” (would highly highly recommend it!) which exposed the pillars that nonprofits often stand on in Baltimore such as the assumption that Black people are inherently pathological, a lack of acknowledgement of culturally affirming research from independent intellectual formations of color, and that people who serve in leadership positions do not reflect those who are being served. What I found most surprising is the calling out of some nonprofits and organizations I have worked with in the past. While it is true that I am a person of color, I often feel that I am someone that is “white-passing” in some scenarios and thinking about my role in some of the organizations mentioned in this article, I feel that I have fallen into this boat of perpetuating white supremacy. It is challenging to think about how to navigate around this because it feels like the situations at hand are systemic and should be resolved by those in higher leadership positions. However, as a student, I feel that I can do my part by educating those around me about these issues and encourage those around me to think more intentionally about the causes they are supporting and what values these groups have embodied. There is nothing wrong about having good intentions, but these intentions need to align with the true needs of communities, otherwise these intentions will not translate to effective change.
Every day at work is different, as random responsibilities pop up or minor catastrophes require attention. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to feel like I’m settling more into a routine and have a better understanding of how each day is going to look when I arrive at the office, which has definitely made me feel more comfortable and assured in my work.
The first few hours of work each day are relatively quiet, and there are rarely meetings or pressing deadlines. If there’s nothing on the agenda, I’ll usually get to work on my computer, making progress on long-term tasks or reading emails. I also try to look at the class offerings in the mornings and will join in on a fitness class whenever possible to pass the time and get some movement in. My favorite is line dancing, but I’ve also done chair yoga and some balance classes. I’ll also check the recreation calendars for each floor of the nursing home to see if there’s anything to go help out with.
Afterward, I go eat my lunch. I’ve been so lucky to be at a site with other interns, one of whom goes to Hopkins too! They’ve made my experience at Keswick so much more fun, and we’re always helping each other out and laughing together. We’ll eat lunch together in the garden when it’s nice out or sit inside if it isn’t. Lunch is always a time for us to unwind before our busy afternoons.
The afternoons are typically more hectic here because that’s when a majority of events for residents take place, after they’ve eaten their lunch and gotten their days started. A few days a week we assist with resident art classes, which take up the bulk of the afternoon. We’ll go pick up the residents from their rooms and bring them down to art, where we help them with their paintings and keep them company. It’s always a fun part of our day, and we like to spend a few minutes chatting with the art teacher afterwards while we clean up. It has also been rewarding to see the same residents come back to art and continue developing relationships with them.
The day sometimes ends after art or any other activities we do instead, but we’ll often finish out the day chatting with residents or assisting with recreation events. Additionally, we might take some time making calls or doing administrative work. When I leave, I like to take some time on my walk home to reflect on the day and make my plan for the next day. Doing this has been an essential part of feeling like I can be productive and contribute from the time I get to work the next day until I’m ready to go.
MERIT is in a period of transition right now, as we move primary locations for the summer from N Haven St to BCCC. But currently, my day starts at 7am, when I wake up and start answering some emails sent by early-riser staff as well as correspondents. I leave for work at 8am, and arrive at the office by 9am. I then meet with my co-teacher for my class that I will teach, Being A Change Agent in Healthcare, and work on preparing/finalizing class materials. I also have meetings throughout the day for the Summer Service Learning Program, another project I’m working on to set MERIT scholars up with community service opportunities that supplement their clinical shadowing by supporting them to be change agents in healthcare. My primary duty is to connect with potential partner organizations and organize students into cohorts that best match their interests and the organizations’ interests. Around 1pm, we have a staff meeting where we go over updates from the administrative end (i.e. calendar, events, etc), and then we all leave the office around 2-2:30pm. I head home and continue finishing up some work related to planning my class and the SSLP project until around 4-5pm, depending on the amount. My future schedule from July 5th will be different. Monday to Thursday, I will arrive at BCCC at 8:30am to get settled into my classroom and I start grading assignments and prepping for class with my co-teacher. 1pm-4pm will be the class, with three sections, an hour each. I’ll leave work around 4:30-5pm. On some days (TBD Tuesday and Thursday), I will be coordinating the SSLP program from various host sites from 9am-12pm, so I won’t be at BCCC until I commute back with the students. Fridays will be fun days, and we have various events planned for the students including a beach day, pool party, visit to DC, etc. All the TAs and instructors will be chaperoning these, and I think it’ll be really fun!