Get Up Close and Personal with Service Learning

After graduating this past May, I was more than excited to take my next step with the National Health Corps. I figured it would be a great way to get some hands on experience in the public health sector, but I didn’t quite realize just how much I would see and learn. What I’ve found to be the most valuable part of my service learning term is the great amount of exposure that we have to the reality of our healthcare system. As a National Health Corps member and a prenatal patient advocate, I am well integrated into the healthcare team, which means I interact with patients and providers who come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds on a day-to-day basis. In my role as a prenatal patient advocate, I assist patients in enrolling in Medicaid, WIC and other social services related to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. 

On some days this means I get to see the relief in a patient’s eyes because we were finally able to get her the health insurance she needs, or maybe it’s because we successfully linked her to the low cost doula she so badly wished for. Those days feel amazing. Those days remind me of and affirm my reasons for wanting to enter the fields of medicine and public health.

There are also days when we unfortunately see the cracks in our system up close and personal. Sometimes they present as the frustration of a provider who is unable to schedule a procedure or exam for a patient due to insurance complications. Other times, it’s the provider’s general grievance due to the time constraints placed on every patient visit. I’m there to witness it all: the good and the not-so-good. 

The truly special part about this entire experience is that I’m also able to engage in conversations with providers about their frustrations, regrets, hopes, and ideas for the future. These conversations have led me to reflect on my own career. How do I want to deliver care to my future patients and what will that look like? How will I maintain a healthy work-life balance? In what ways will I contribute to the revitalization of our healthcare system?

Because of the unique opportunity a service term with the National Health Corps provides, I am able to explore all of these thoughts, and more. With the wisdom and guidance of the providers who serve as my mentors, and the real practical experience of patient care, I feel more informed about and confident in my professional development and goals.

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This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Kemi Balogun.
Kemi serves as the Prenatal Patient Advocate at Family Practice & Counseling Network - Health Annex.