As I am writing this blog post, Chicago Public Schools have one more week until school is out for the summer. That means my time as the Health Educator at Erie’s Lake View School Based Health Center is quickly drawing to a close. 9 months ago I could not imagine what this year would come to mean to me. I have loved serving with my team, my other AmeriCorps members, and at Erie in general.
One of the very first things I had to learn in this role was to be flexible. Things are always up in the air, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. Within the first two weeks of school, our longtime Patients Benefit Advocate, who sits at the front desk to schedule appointments, check insurance, and acts as the first person many students see while in the clinic, announced she would be retiring. While my supervisor searched for a new person to create opportunities for this role, I stepped in to help serve students as their first point of contact. It was a crash course in how a clinic runs, how to use the electronic medical record system, and just how flexible I have had to be this year. That need to be flexible bled into many of my other roles as well. This has meant when I get an email from a teacher asking if I am available to teach students the very next day, I agree because otherwise they wouldn’t get the education they need to live safe and healthy lives. Sometimes I would schedule a certain date for the Dental Van to come to Lake View, only to find out they needed to change the date a week before they were meant to come. In order to reach as many students as possible I need to accommodate other people. We are all serving together towards the larger goal of better health outcomes for all of our students, and you can’t get too caught up in wanting things to go a certain way. Some classes will go better than others; sometimes students will want to confide in you one day and ignore you the next. Either way you have to wake up each morning, brush yourself off, and get back to service.
Looking towards next year I plan to apply my new found appreciation of flexibility towards jobs and grad school. I always had in my mind that once my service year was over I would immediately head back to school to get my Masters in Public Health. While that is still something I plan on doing, I have been thinking more and more recently about where I can make the most impact and how I can continue working with these populations after my service year is over. I don’t have a concrete plan yet as to what comes next, but I’m open to any possibility that comes my way. I have my year of service to thank for that.
This blog post was written by 2018-19 NHC Chicago member Natalie Berman.
Natalie is a Health Educator at Erie Family Health Center - Lakeview.