Smiles in Struggle
When we’re young, service is all sunshine and rainbows. I remember coaching sports teams, babysitting children, and fundraising to give gifts to kids for the holidays. Of course, as I grew older, I stepped my foot in the door and would serve at clinics and hospitals on my weekends but never was my life fully consumed by service. Never did I take on service as a full-time lifestyle, until AmeriCorps. It’s easy to disconnect and only see the lovely side of service when all you’re involved in is the easy stuff. But when you really commit yourself to a year of full-time service, you may find, as I did, that it is a lot tougher than it sounds. You need to find and really put emphasis on those smiles that sometimes appear within the many struggles.
My primary role is as a patient navigator at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) but of course as a National Health Corps (NHC) member, the extent of your service goes far beyond your primary role with other hats of mine including health educator, street outreach specialist, and gardener to name a few. You get the opportunity to really become a part of the community you serve through all of your service and you also get the opportunity to see and feel the struggles experienced by the populations you serve.
The patients I see at Sulzbacher Beaches Clinic face various barriers to care. These barriers include, but are not limited to, mental health disorders, lack of finances, lack of transportation, and language barriers. They are afraid of the medical field and distrust it because of the abuse they have faced in the past. When they come in, a goal of mine is to make them feel at home and safe. Regardless of what they have faced and whether or not they have good intentions, I give them the benefit of the doubt.
Being a part of a clinic like Sulzbacher involves also being there on the bad days. It involves letting patients know when they don’t fit our credentials and we will, unfortunately, not be able to provide services. It involves being with the patients when they learn bad news about their health as well as being disappointed when they don’t take that news seriously or when their actions are detrimental to their health. As staff that deal with this each day, we feel the disappointment each time a volunteer provider cancels and when patients need specialized care, but we do not have the resources to provide it.
As an Americorps National Health Corps Florida member, you learn to highlight the successes and really remember why you serve. You also learn the importance of supporting the amazing staff you work with, who experience this moral distress each day. Through resilience, support, and understanding with both staff and clients; you can truly make a difference in both their lives.