I serve at the Sulzbacher Center as a Patient Navigator as part of National Health Corps Florida Americorps. As I reflect on my service year so far, a theme I have noticed is the importance of considering patients’ motivations, lifestyle, and struggles in providing them quality care. It can be easy sometimes, in a role like mine, to forget that. On busy days, I can get caught in the routine of sending out applications, reordering medications, and calling companies to track shipments and deliveries. Fortunately, when I meet with patients one on one, I can put faces and stories with the services I provide.
For example, getting to know patients can help me understand why a patient isn’t picking up their meds on schedule. It might be transportation issues, recent injuries or hospitalizations, or even a period of incarceration. Sometimes, the reason is as simple as a medication dispenser being too difficult to use, which I easily fix by enrolling them for a different brand of the same medication. For optional medications, such as smoking cessation aids, meeting with patients also gives me the chance to figure out that a particular method doesn’t match their lifestyle. I can then coordinate with their physician to find alternatives, such as smoking cessation classes with our Health Educator AmeriCorps Member at Sulzbacher.
Recently, I met with a woman with COPD and asthma who had gone without her emergency inhaler for months and hadn’t come in to fill out an application. I was initially surprised that she would be okay with such a long delay. When I finally got the chance to sit down with her and ask how her day had been, this patient started crying. She explained that she had lost her job due to a mental health condition and was living with a friend. Somehow, there had been a mix-up and her friend’s income was counted as part of her household income even though they did not share it. As a result, she had to borrow money from someone to pay her copays and wasn’t able to pay the money back. From this conversation, I quickly realized that an asthma attack was one of the last things she was thinking about. I assured her I would speak to her provider to fix her copay situation, and also offered to connect her to community resources when she was ready. After she calmed down, the patient thanked me for listening to her and following up on her inhaler application, saying she had completely forgotten about it in the midst of her stressful situation.
I believe these experiences will carry on to how I understand and care for my patients as a future physician. I have learned that my top concern for a patient will not always be their priority. It may not even be a concern to them at all in that moment. Furthermore, it is important to consider and address my patient’s concerns before my concerns because they might influence their medical compliance. I hope to continuously remind myself of this lesson in order to one day provide patients the best services that I can.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps Member, Mindy.
Mindy serves at I.M. Sulzbacher as a Patient Navigator.