Supporting Mothers & Babies Through Patient Centered Care
Oftentimes my home visits are spent just listening. I sat down with “Amber” and patiently listened as she confided in me how painful and anxiety-inducing her pregnancy had been. During our first visit, I listened to her frustrations with her prenatal provider who would not take her concerns seriously. She was experiencing an unusual amount of pain compared with her past four pregnancies, and her provider continuously attributed it to ordinary pregnancy discomforts. The practice also had a physician with no c-section experience scheduled to perform her repeat c-section delivery. Amber was concerned about switching providers so late in her pregnancy, but I encouraged her to find someone she felt safe with and whom she trusted to care for her and her unborn baby. Over the next few weeks, I supported my client in transitioning her prenatal care to a different hospital–the same one that delivered her past four children. This was just one of many problems we tackled together. I connected my client to several food pantries after her food stamps were reduced and helped her acquire free baby supplies including a car seat, bassinet, diapers, and more. It was heartwarming to see the joy on her face after her baby finally arrived and her previous pain and anxiety disappeared.
Since serving in the National Health Corps, these kinds of patient interactions have allowed me to learn first-hand the overwhelming barriers individuals face in receiving healthcare. My role as a maternal health care coordinator for the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition involves talking with mothers to understand their pregnancy experiences and motivating them to reach their family health goals. During home visits, I provide women’s health counseling and screen clients for intimate partner violence, substance use, tobacco use, and perinatal depression. I assess eligibility for community services and deliver baby supply donations to clients as well. Beyond home visits, I teach community classes to make maternal health and parenting education more accessible to underserved communities. Through my service experience, I now know that patient-centered care extends far beyond what happens in health care facilities. Patient-centered care is addressing all patient concerns in and outside of the clinic. To achieve patient-centered care, health providers must work with other providers and community organizations to ensure all patient needs are met.
As a future physician, I hope to continue working with organizations like Healthy Start to ensure all patients are afforded the same access to health education and resources. It is my goal to practice medicine in partnership with the communities I serve to continue learning and providing the best care possible. Thinking back to my client Amber, despite all of the challenges and structural barriers she faced during her pregnancy, she delivered a healthy baby. As a community health worker, I helped bridge the gap between my client and the community resources available to her. Above all, I am grateful to have been there for her when she needed someone the most, even just as a listening ear.