On any given morning at Respiratory Health Association (RHA), one could walk past the National Health Corps (NHC) cubicle and see one member on the phone with a school counselor, another drafting an email to a principal, and the last creating posters to use at a student program. At my service site, we communicate almost constantly, whether with school staff, parents, students, or other team members. From the beginning of the year until now, myself and the two other NHC members at the site have developed and honed our skills in dispersing health information to different audiences. The skills gained from this position also will undoubtedly prove helpful in future professional settings.
One of the most valuable lessons that has helped us reach so many people is the ability to effectively adjust a message. For instance, while doing outreach, the way that we explain the purpose of our programs to nurses is different than to a principal. Since it can be assumed that the two parties do not interact with asthma in the same way, it’s important to highlight the aspects that they can relate to (student office visits versus time out of school, for example.) It is also useful to adjust the message for different groups of students. Since the curriculum is essentially the same for the 3rd graders as for the seniors in high school, we need to think on our feet to make the information interesting and applicable to each class. If the physiology of asthma is explained in a complicated way to younger students, they will not absorb the information and thus will still not be able to tell the difference between their medicines. Health outcomes will only improve if people can comprehend what we are there to teach them.
For us personally, these verbal and written communication skills will prove useful in the future as well. As future doctors, PAs, and public health professionals, it is important for us to be able to get information across to a wide range of audiences. In addition, the experience in communicating as team members will also translate to a variety of settings. This NHC core competency undoubtedly has been developed by our work at RHA, and will continue to strengthen throughout the service term.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2016-17 member Laura Milstein.
Laura is an Asthma Educator at Respiratory Health Association.