I recently ran into clients who arrived in the U.S in September and were some of the first clients I took on at the start of my service term at Nationalities Service Center. They had a medically complex case and needed a lot of attention. I was new and struggled to help them navigate a complicated health system while they are still adapting to life in America. In the beginning, we spent hours in hospitals attending appointments and they would come multiple times a week to meet with me to address concerns. They were exhausted and disheartened again and again but continued to persevere with resilience and grace. At times, all I could do was listen and felt useless in terms of getting them the care they deserved. But we plugged along and continued to build an empowering client relationship. In the end, we were able to establish comprehensive care such as important surgeries, physical therapy, dental, mental health services, eye care and pain management. I hadn’t seen them for a while as they gradually no longer needed case management. They greeted me with friendly enthusiasm. The father was so excited to tell me about the new suit he bought for a new job. The kids are all in school, playing sports and learning English. The mother then pulled out her phone and showed me pictures of her kitchen, where she was hosting her neighbors for dinner. They have transcended challenging circumstances and built a solid foundation. We chatted for a while and as I went back to service I was overcome with such fulfillment. I am so thankful for their strength and understanding and feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed part of their journey. Through our relationship I learned invaluable lessons about case management.
Before my service term, I didn’t realize how building appropriate and empowering relationships can improve quality of care. I have grown to truly enjoy medical case management because it affords the opportunity to really know a person’s medical journey through identifying issues and barriers that may prevent them from getting care. Sometimes the simplest activities, such as scheduling interpretation or calling a client to remind them of an upcoming appointment can make all the difference in a client’s provider experience. This experience has cultivated an unexpected skill set of patience, attentive listening, and motivational interviewing, all of which should be skills incorporated into public health practice as they address our emotional, spiritual and intellectual health. Due to the complexities in our current healthcare model, advocating for a client’s wellbeing is required. During this year I have become an outspoken advocate and feel charged by this new-found skill. I hope to pursue a master’s degree in social work and public health as I see how seamlessly they go hand in hand. Due to my experience in the National Health Corps I have an ignited value for cultivating human connection because our humanity and survival are so indistinguishably linked to our mutual happiness and health.