Student Perspective: Conner and Laura
September 29, 2016
From the outside, our pharmacy externs for the month of September, Conner and Laura, could not look more different. This is obvious from their picture. However, they, like many students before them, shared a passion to bring hope and healing to those in need here at Health Partners. For 30 days, they were taken out of their comfort zone and tasked to go beyond the bonds of therapeutic care. They certainly rose to the occasion and came out the other side with new perspectives. We here at the Clinic thank them for their time and for sharing in this months Student Perspective:
One word to summarize my impression of Health Partners Free Clinic is respect. Near the beginning of the month, Justin, the director, impressed upon us the importance of offering high quality care in a high quality environment, rejecting the notion that a free service could be held to a lower standard than one with a cost. By design, nothing about the clinic seems cheap. From landscapers who manage the flowers, to those who clean the bright waiting room and donors who stock it with a wide magazine selection, to the organized and professional administrative staff, to the genuinely caring, well-trained practitioners who work collaboratively in an inter-professional team, everyone who works or volunteers at Health Partners can take pride in their work. Patients are treated as valued customers and engaged with mutual respect, and it makes a difference in outcomes.
The culture of mutual respect starts behind the scenes among the staff and volunteers. Each individual’s unique skill set and experience are celebrated and leveraged to provide the best service. Nurses and other volunteers that are retired bring years of experience to the clinic and are willing and eager to share their perspectives with the visiting students, as well as engage the students to learn the most recent developments in healthcare and technology. In each respective role, the nursing students, nurse practitioner student, and pharmacy students practice to the full extent of their training. After a brief orientation, the nursing students conduct the initial patient interview independently, the nurse practitioner student performs the initial assessment before the head practitioner, and the pharmacy students provide final medication counseling. The professionals that the students report to express their trust in the students’ abilities, ask for their perspective on challenging issues, and share their step-by-step thought process in order to help the students develop their own clinical decision-making skills. The collaboration and respect among the practitioners empowers them to extend the same respect to and invite collaboration from the patients themselves.
The name Health Partners captures the idea of successful healthcare as an incorporation of the patient into the team, and I was able to see this illustrated in my interactions with patients. When I feel respected and accepted, I’m more likely to be honest rather than manipulate others’ perceptions of me, and I think that patients share that sentiment. The environment of respect creates a safe place for patients to share real barriers, which may be a challenging situation at home, difficulty remembering daily medicines, a lack of belief in the medicine’s efficacy, unpleasant and embarrassing side effects, or a struggle to care about their own health. When these obstacles are shared with the practitioners, both parties can work together to identify and act on a solution. Autonomy is greatly valued–patients are given choices of strategies to achieve health goals and personal milestones are celebrated. As providers, we bring our education to the partnership, but the patients bring the motivation, which is essential for success of any therapy.
I came to the Health Partners Free Clinic hoping to learn what ambulatory care is all about, but this month I learned so much more about people than medicine. Lots of people have health insurance or a good paying job, but just can’t get in to see a doctor or can’t afford their copays. This month, I got so sick of hearing, “well, next month my Medicare will kick in” or phrases like it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that our government is helping people, but what are they supposed to do right now with no medications or prescriptions? Health Partners graciously steps into that gap and says, “What are your needs? What is preventing you from accessing them?” and most importantly, “How can we help?”
Last summer, I went on a Whole Person Care Preceptorship in Redlands, CA that was focused on spiritual care of patients. I spent a month learning how to cater to a patient’s spiritual and emotional needs as well as their physical needs. Although the experience was tremendous, it didn’t feel all that realistic in most practice sites. Boy was I wrong! Not only are health professionals listening to the spiritual and emotional needs of patients here at the clinic, but we have a whole team of non-medical staff and volunteers to break down identified barriers to whole person care. We also have numerous partners in the community to help with patients’ food, housing, and emotional insecurity.
Specifically, one patient’s story struck with me this month. He somehow found his way to this clinic shortly after being released from a local prison. When I heard that I was going to visit this patient with our social worker, I braced myself for the tattoo covered, ring-pierced giant with a spiked up Mohawk. Contrary to my preconceived notions, this patient was a humble, kind, and intimidated by the world around him. It wasn’t until I put myself in his shoes that I realized how much he needed us at the clinic. You see, when he left the prison, he had no money, no job, no transportation, no housing, and most apt to us, no medications. As he described his reclamation to society, he sounded fearful of the fast paced world around him. He said, “If I didn’t have any friends, I would be on the street with nothing.” He described a time in prison when he had no access to his medications. He told me that he still has nightmares of the disturbing visions he saw as a side effect of stopping his many medications suddenly. As a part of our services, we were able to provide this patient with his medications until he can get his feet under him next month.
To sum up my experience here at the Clinic, I may not be able to make my patients’ lives perfect, but I can listen to where they are at, identify what’s keeping them from where they are going, and remove all the barriers I can.