Patients Deserve More than a Script

Posted on: June 2, 2021San Francisco

Hi there! My name is Saba (she/her) and I grew up in Palo Alto, California. I graduated in Spring 2020 from UC Berkeley where I studied Cognitive Science. I am currently a National Health Corps member serving as both a COVID-19 Responder and a Perinatal Coordinator at the San Francisco Department of Public Health Population Health Team. In addition, I serve on the NHC SF Training and Corps Support committees.  

Saba Moussavian, NHC SF member, during a day of service from home.
Saba Moussavian is one of the NHC SF members that serves almost fully remotely!

As a COVID-19 Responder, I’ve been on the virtual front lines of the pandemic since September. First, through supporting San Francisco Health Network COVID-19 positive patients by talking them through their diagnosis and currently by helping patients access the COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout this rapidly changing environment, I’ve found one thing to stay true: often the most helpful service I can provide a patient is the recognition that they are heard. 

I remember clearly my conversation with one patient particularly shocked by their COVID-19 test results. They immediately expressed frustration, asking me how this could be possible. I took a deep breath and calmed my urge to answer them with information or statistics. For a moment, I set aside my script of questions about symptoms and resources and decided to just listen. I listened to how seriously they had been taking COVID-19 precautions, always wearing a mask, not visiting family. And how badly they had wanted the COVID-19 vaccine only to find out they weren't yet eligible. And I felt frustrated for them. Frustrated that I couldn’t explain why they had contracted COVID-19 and frustrated that I couldn’t yet offer them the COVID-19 vaccine. After summarizing for them what I was hearing, I finally heard a deep breath on the other side of the phone. 

I’ve found this lesson to hold true throughout my vaccine outreach endeavors as well. As I bite back my urge to spew facts about side effect rates and trial results, I take the time to listen to a patient’s concerns and make sure they know I’ve understood them. And even if they decide not to get the vaccine at this time, I hope they will leave our conversation feeling respected and validated by their healthcare home.  

About the Author:

Saba Moussavian

Having lived her whole life in the San Francisco Peninsula and Bay Area, Saba grew up with a deep appreciation for her corner of the world. Saba chose to join National Health Corps SF for the opportunity to provide direct service and support within the San Francisco Health Department and health clinics. As the Perinatal Coordinator, Saba will focus on unmet needs related to prenatal and postpartum care. Saba is interested in the intersection of community health and advocacy and hopes to continue to work on health issues related to reproductive justice and migrant health.

Host Site

30 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102
30 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102