This Service Year: What I've Learned

I came into this service year not knowing much about HIV. In fact, my knowledge of HIV was very basic at best. Today, I end my year of service with a new set of knowledge and skills on HIV and preventative health. I feel that the skills I’ve learned will serve me well in my future career endeavors. 

Among the many things I’ve learned as an NHC Chicago Health Educator in the Lending Hands for Life program at Erie Family Health Centers is how to provide patient centered care and education. When it comes to sexual health especially, it’s important to deliver care and education in an unbiased, non-judgmental fashion. Guiding patients as opposed to lecturing can make a big difference in their health outcomes. Imploring the use of open ended questions like “Tell me why you’ve come to our clinic today” or “Tell me what you know about HIV or PrEP” are great ways to start these conversations. It gives patients the opportunity to describe their concerns and care goals for their personal health.

I’ve also realized the importance of keeping a positive attitude when engaging patients in their PrEP care. As a NHC Chicago Health Educator, a part of my role was to outreach to our active PrEP patients. I was responsible for scheduling appointments, providing medication adherence counseling and PrEP navigation services for almost 150 patients! This proved to be quite challenging as I was providing most of this support over the phone. Learning how to “smile over the phone” has gone a long way in keeping patients engaged in their care.

I’ve enjoyed the wide variety of tasks I’ve had over the year. I’ve done everything from providing support for PrEP patients to teaching a nutrition class to our patients living with HIV. One of the most eye-opening experiences for me was providing Rapid HIV testing. It’s a very vulnerable and uncertain time for a person. I’m happy to have been a part of all of these experiences. They were joyful, sad, challenging and life changing.

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2018-19 member Olga Mabolia.

Olga is a Health Educator at Erie Family Health Center - Humboldt Park.