Student Perspective: Anh Dao

January 31, 2018

Professionalism is something we here at the Clinic have come to expect from our staff, volunteers and students.  The pharmacy externs that we interact with every month are held to this same standard, and always rise to the occasion.  This past month, however, our pharmacy extern from Ohio Northern University, Anh Dao, got the opposite instruction.  We asked her to let her guard down and connect with our patients’ souls.  Like the true professional she is, Anh Dao accomplished this request with vigor and she shares her thoughts here in this month’s edition of Student Perspective:

When I saw that I had the opportunity to spend a month at a free clinic to work with the underserved population, I knew I had to take full advantage of it and signed up for the rotation right away. With a previous background working with the underserved population, I was extremely excited to jump back into my area of interest! I thought, “Oh, the clinic will be similar to ones I have volunteered at in the past!” However, as cliché as it sounds, I knew from the first day that this was going to be a unique experience. The fact that everyone pitches in and works beyond their required duties creates such a wholesome environment at Health Partners Free Clinic. As cheesy as it may sound, they put the care in healthcare. The clinic is meant to serve as a transitional place to help patients get back on their feet, but for patients to not want to leave afterwards, speaks volumes about the type of relationships formed at the clinic. The quality of care provided at Health Partners Free Clinic is certainly irreplaceable.

It is far from being a one-person job, so it all starts with the open arms and open-minded team. The fabulous team consists of doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, administrative staff, and volunteers. The pharmacy team worked hand in hand with the nurse practitioners, doctors and nurses. I was involved with counseling patients, altering medication regimens, and assisting in the medication room.

At first, I kept it too professional; where I was hesitant to intrude on patients’ personal matters. I wanted to provide the best healthcare, and that was what I solely fixated upon. However, I learned that people want to share their story; albeit some more than others, it is human to seek for comfort, even if in indirect ways. Even if I were to provide the most thorough counseling about the proper inhaler administration techniques, insulin injection administration, or the importance of compliance, it would not matter if I did not understand the patient’s lifestyle.

It was a privilege for me to listen to the patients’ stories and interact with people from different cultures and walks of life. The patient population ranged from homeless individuals to business owners with nice cars. It was inspiring to hear how an alcoholic weaned herself off of alcohol without treatment; how a man who was once in prison is now working hard to raise his family, and how a young mother is seeking help for her depression. My eyes were opened to the false illusions in life that can lead to costly assumptions. So many people assumed that these patients were “okay” before they reached their rock bottoms, and before they came to the clinic, they were assumed to be “the typical alcoholic, criminal, and depressed person”. Who would have assumed that these people would be here today walking a different path?

Talking to the patient is beneficial for both the patient and the healthcare professional. Not only can we provide medication to manage diseases, we can also provide open arms and ears to help patients cope with personal matters. Along with pharmacologic knowledge, I gained an invaluable lesson from this journey; to seek kinship within one another to truly understand each other’s story in order to provide customized care and set realistic and achievable goals. I believe this vital aspect is often overlooked in our fast- paced world of healthcare today, but definitely not at the Health Partners Free Clinic.

With a background very similar to the patients at the clinic, I realized that the barriers that these patients are facing, are ones that my family and I once faced when we were assimilating in America. It was very satisfying to come full circle to meet the needs of others to improve their quality of life. No matter the patient’s circumstances, it was rewarding to know that I was able to brighten up their day. Since the Clinic is focused on providing care instead of profit, much more time is given to patients. The patients knew that we were open to questions, eager to solve problems, and willing to provide well-rounded patient care. I had the unique opportunity to shadow the social worker, and learned about her impact on the lives of so many patients during the Thursday walk-in clinics. I did not realize how common it was for patients with insurance to face the barrier of lack of health care access and medications.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of this team of such genuine souls, who served as role models in solidifying my aspirations to work for the underserved. This ambulatory care focused rotational experience fostered my growth both professionally and personally. I will certainly carry these valuable lessons onward to implement within my next rotation sites and future career.