The Small Victories by Madeline Frank

The host site where I am serving this year, 11th Street Family Health Services, is an incredible place. The clinic is a partnership between Drexel University and the Family Practice and Counseling Network, and is a clinic that is truly by and for the community. 11th Street is structured on the Sanctuary Model, which is an organizational model that operates on trauma-informed practices and aims to make everyone within an organization feel safe and heard. There are an incredibly wide variety of services available at 11th Street including Behavioral Health, Primary Care, Creative Arts Therapies, Fitness and Wellness Services— the list goes on. I can say with absolute honesty that I am inspired by the people I serve with every single day. 11th Street is a special place, to say the least.

However, even at a place like 11th Street, there are times when I feel frustrated or helpless or like what I’m doing at the clinic isn’t making as big of a difference as I wish it would. This, of course, is not a surprise. Even in the best of circumstances, health-related work, especially within underserved communities like the ones in which NHC members serve, can be quite challenging. This is something we talked about often during Pre-Service Orientation— the reality that although the service that we are all doing is important, it might not always be immediately apparent when we are “in the trenches.” We also intensely prepared for the fact that we would encounter some deeply upsetting situations in which we could not help a patient nearly as much as we wished we could. I knew all of this going in, but experiencing it firsthand was quite different.

I was feeling pretty down one day, as I’d experienced several challenges that week that had made upset me and made me feel a bit useless. For example, I’d had a recent interaction with a patient who had so many issues (almost all of which were completely out of her control) that it felt overwhelming to try to even tackle one, let alone all of them. Later, I’d completed several new patient phone calls in which I’d been yelled at by patients and felt like I didn’t do a great job responding. In general, I was wondering whether or not what I was doing was really making an impact. I serve as the Integrative Services Patient Navigator and Recruiter, so most of my position involves making referrals and ensuring that information about our services are as easy as possible to access. Thus, while I see many patients and make many referrals a day, I rarely, get to see the end result of my hard work.

However, after all this, I remembered that Jessica, the Health and Benefits Advocate at 11th Street and a fellow NHC member, had forwarded me the information of a patient who was interested in learning about some of our services. I decided that I would do one last call before I left. The patient was one of the kindest people I have ever encountered. She was so appreciative of my call, and wanted to know all about the different services we offered, which I gladly provided. At the end of the call, she told me how lucky she felt to have found 11th Street and how grateful she was for the center and all the people who had helped her. I found out later that she already has a consultation to see our music therapist!

I know this sounds cliché, but that one interaction completely changed my mindset that day, and I felt not only proud of 11th Street, but good about myself and my role at the center. I know there will be plenty more hard or frustrating days this service term, but I also know that these little moments make it all worth it.