Student Perspective: Sara and Sunitha

August 31, 2017

Over the past thirty days, the Clinic was blessed to have not one but two pharmacy externs.  Sara, from Cedarville University, and Sunitha, from Ohio Northern University, who spent the month of August caring for those in need here at Health Partners.  They also willingly took on any task requested of them all in the name of providing quality care, even to the point of picking up brushes and coating the patient rooms with fresh paint!  Though they wrote there perspectives separately, you will notice a common them from both of them:  patient-centered care.  Enjoy this double-trouble edition of Student Perspective:  


In healthcare, we preach a philosophy called “Patient First.” We spend a decade (sometimes literally) in school learning the concepts that explain how we approach patient care. We spend our careers looking for the genes that will let us design unique treatments, tweaking treatment plans to adapt to a patient’s response, and checking (and rechecking) medications for interactions and side effects. Even though every task we undertake exists because we are working towards “Patient First”, I think many of us eventually lose track of the patient around which our care is centered. And even though my career is so young that it is still in diapers, I have seen more than enough healthcare that is NOT patient-centered to satisfy me for a lifetime.

[Now you are wondering what sort of experience I may have had here at Health Partners Free Clinic that would cause me to build my reflection on such a depressing foundation. I am glad you wondered, friend; allow me to explain.]

In an environment where patient centered care seems like its drowning under requirements, restrictions, and expense, Health Partners is a gasp of air. The clinic features a staff that is equipped with remarkably diverse skill sets. As a result, they are able to tackle the wide variety of challenges that patients bring through the door with them. While the rest of healthcare is preaching “Patient First,” Health Partners is practicing it by putting every patient in contact with a wholistic team, by taking the time necessary to care for the issues that brought the patient into the clinic, and by thinking outside the box for ways to address complex health concerns.

As a student trying to navigate how my goals for truly patient-centered care fit into a system that may or may not be moving in the same direction, spending time in an environment where the patient is not just a focus but is the only focus can be career changing. Every patient I met during the last month has a story, and I relish the opportunities I had to learn them and learn how the story fit into both their health status and how the clinic staff designed their care.

I feel like I have only just arrived here to practice, and yet I am already on my way out the door for the next practice site. I can hardly leave without urging whoever may be reading this to take a moment to reevaluate how you think about and care for the people around you (especially if you are a healthcare professional), and, if you think you might have room for improvement, visit a setting like HPFC to be encouraged and challenged by the care provided here. It has certainly encouraged and challenged me!


Beginning this month, I came in with an open mind about the experiences I would encounter at a free clinic. However, I was not fully prepared for the emotions involved in care in this setting. Listening to patients’ stories, it became more apparent how much of an impact their social situation has on health beliefs and behaviors. I have encountered patients who have difficulty being seen by a doctor despite having insurance, patients who are unable to afford their necessary medications, and patients who have unfortunately fallen through the gaps of care because of their yearly income. I only became aware of these barriers at my time at Health Partners Free Clinic, and I am grateful for this new perspective.

This sheds light into the importance of patient-centered care that tailors treatment recommendations to each patient’s medical and social situations. The clinic aims to provide holistic care through providing free medical visits, free medications, and free social services/referrals. It is even great that the clinic helps uninsured patients apply for insurance.

It is evident that everyone at the clinic cares for the overall well-being of patients through their respect, kindness, and non-judgmental attitude towards patients. Reflecting on my time at Health Partners, I am reminded of a comment I overheard while at the clinic: “You jump from stranger to love in this place, there is no in between.” This statement really reflects the service-oriented environment at Health Partners, and is one of the many reasons why I have enjoyed my time here. This experience has definitely shaped my future career in pharmacy.