During my first interview for the National Health Corps, one of the staff members asked me, “Are you an adaptable person?” When they asked me this question, I did not think twice about answering yes. I mean, I’ve been through difficult situations before. I grew up in Central Florida where annual hurricanes caused people to dash to the nearest grocery store for bread and bottled water. I worked three jobs my senior year of college while going to classes full time. I was serving in Americorps just this past year when a wildfire struck California, and I assisted with disaster response. I felt prepared for anything.
Then the first week of orientation Hurricane Dorian struck Florida, and there were mass evacuations. Orientation was postponed, and plans had to be changed.
Then the coronavirus made it to the United States. Who could have predicted this service term in a million years?
To sum it up in one phrase, we adapted. This unforeseen pandemic did not keep our members from serving the community, we just had to be creative about the way that we served.
I was fortunate enough to be able to keep going to my host site Barnabas throughout the quarantine. However, the medical clinic switched completely to telephone and video conference appointments. Since one of the main components of my position description is health education at discharge, my daily service dramatically changed. After their visits with providers, I would follow up with them and provide resources and informational material via email, phone or postal mail. I also began helping out in the food pantry whenever they needed me. Due to the large increase in unemployment and layoffs due to the pandemic, food insecurity became an extremely pressing concern in the community.
Other National Health Corps members were unable to keep going into their host sites, and they began serving from home. For example, three National Health Corps members are Health Educators and happen to be roommates. They would create virtual teaching strategies and resources. Many people might think that serving from home sounds like a vacation. You get the chance to sleep in, and stay in your pajamas all day eating chips. However, there are challenges to serving from home that most people do not realize. It’s hard to separate work from home when you are always home. You have to create a whole new routine. And since the schools are closed, making an impact on the children that they were supposed to be serving was a real challenge.
Despite these challenges, they continued supporting each other. They collaborated on a schedule to keep themselves accountable for their time. They bounced ideas off of each other about the best way to communicate the material.
The coronavirus did not slow the National Health Corps down. Our mission is to foster healthy communities by delivering and connecting those who need it most with health and wellness education, benefits and services. We can and we have adapted in order to #getthingsdone!