Patient Empowerment

Throughout the many engaging topics of the orientation that we AmeriCorps members completed prior to serving at our host sites, the theme that most prominently stood out to me was empowerment. Many of the topics focused on how we can best serve the populations that make up our communities. Luckily for me, the communities around me have already made me feel at home. The sense of togetherness that Pittsburgh has allowed to participate in has been empowering because it reminds every day that I have the support I need to perform at my best. With this in mind, I made it my personal goal to see how I can empower those around me every day.

The training that I have received from my mentors and co-workers has shown me that the first step to empowering people is through education. The Center for Disease Control has estimated that only twelve percent of adults throughout the United States have an adroit understanding of their own health and health decisions (1). Barriers such as literacy and language can further exacerbate issues of understanding complicated medical situations. At my host site, Squirrel Hill Health Center, medical staff have passionately worked to provide medical care that is accessible to each patient. This is important because many of our patients do not speak English as their first language. With each interaction, the patients I serve are well informed about their situations, and they are empowered through it. As each patient gains knowledge about how they can make healthy choices, they are more likely to do so.

A primary component of my position at Squirrel Hill Health Center is to help patients schedule appointments with physicians. Scheduling these appointments is able to be accomplished because the patients and their families are taught about the nuances of their situations. Patients are provided with interpreters that help make the daunting healthcare system more accessible. With these interpreters, I have been able to help patients schedule their appointments in appropriate time frames. This is important because some of the populations I serve may face unique challenges with medical care, such as vaccinations. People that come to the United States may have received (or not received) vaccinations at different timeframes. With the attention to detail that the medical staff has provided, the patients are prepared for each unique factor that they may face. I find that the staff treats patients like they are part of a shared community, and this is reciprocated back to the staff.

Throughout the first few months with the National Health Corps, I have been educated about many different topics within public health and social work. With the strengthening of my knowledge, I have been able to provide accurate and comprehensive information to my community members. I am excited to continue serving and finding ways to assist people around me because I am able to feel the wonders of empowerment every day at my site.

This post was written by NPHC member Brandon Neal

Brandon serves at Squirrel Hill Health Center as a Patient Navigator.