Pre-service Orientation (PSO) is a two week series of training that prepares National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps members to encourage healthy behaviors, de-escalate tense situations, and effectively collaborate in a team, among other topics. During my first week of service with Barnabas Health Services, I was able to practice these skills and start gaining a rapport with the patients who use these services. However, I also discovered what PSO and my previous experiences had not prepared me for.
I used to volunteer in the emergency room of my local hospital and I have a Bachelors in Biology, so I thought that I would be more than prepared to serve in a medical setting. My background has helped me in providing discharge education and understanding medical procedures. However, providing service to clients is a different experience than observing physicians providing care in the emergency room. Until I joined the National Health Corps, my experience helping people feel at ease when they are scared, has been limited.
Barnabas is a unique organization because it serves individuals in Nassau County who are 200% below the federal poverty line by providing medical care, dental care, and medication assistance. Additionally, there is an on-site food donation center, called the Pantry, where patients have access to free healthy food. The staff at Barnabas encourages learning. In my first week, I was able to observe wound care of an amputated finger and assist with a pap smear and an electrocardiogram (EKG). What I learned the most, though, is how compassionate every member of the Barnabas team is. The woman who needed the EKG was scared and spoke very little English. As the nurse was setting up the machine, she held the woman's hand and assured her that the test wouldn’t hurt. A different patient needed to have her blood sugar tested but she was afraid of needles. The medical assistant I was shadowing asked her about her weekend plans to distract her. She visibly relaxed and even left the clinic laughing.
PSO didn’t teach me how to make connections with the clients that I serve. Additionally, it did not teach me how to let them know that they can trust me to help them. I still have to refine these skills in order to thrive in this position. However, I know that the Barnabas team will support me as I learn how to be a better care coordinator.
This blog was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Leann Petschonek.
Leann serves at Barnabas as a Care Coordinator