When I look back at myself as a brand new AmeriCorps member during PSO, I am struck by how formative this year has been for me. I knew that time in National Health Corps was likely to be impactful, but I never expected to learn and evolve as much as I have. Rather than this happening through distinct, dramatic moments, I think that I have learned the most through my small, day-to-day tasks and interactions at my host site.
I remember my disorientation and slight apprehension the first time that I had to call a patient through our phone interpreter service. Now, it is my default, and it almost feels strange to call a patient without an interpreter on the line. I remember feeling overwhelmed on the first day where the mobile unit was packed with people, as I tried to make everyone comfortable in the cramped space and juggle my different tasks. Now, I know how to take these days in stride, and I genuinely look forward to the minor chaos of having many patients. I remember hearing about opioid addiction during PSO and having no real context or reference point, as I hadn’t ever personally known anyone who struggled with opioid use. Now, I have seen the crippling effects of opioids firsthand, and I have incredible respect for the strength and resilience of my patients who are battling with their addictions. These shifts in my perspectives seem small individually, but cumulatively they have made me a more capable and conscious person.
In addition to all of these small shifts, this year has also given me clarity about my professional goals. I have known for a long time that I want to use my career to help eradicate health disparities, but I have not always been completely confident about the path that I want to take towards this. While I was almost positive that I wanted to be a physician before my service year began, there was always a tiny part of me that was quietly hesitant. I felt deeply drawn to medicine for many reasons, but I worried that as a doctor, I wouldn’t be able to contribute as broadly as I might if I went into a field such as health policy or public health administration.
After spending a year with the patients and staff at my host site, however, these worries have vanished. I have watched as the providers and social workers at Squirrel Hill make huge impacts on their patients’ lives, connecting them to vital services and becoming advocates for those who need one. It is now clear to me that our providers do make broad contributions to health equity while also connecting individually with their patients. I can see myself in their shoes, and they have taught me invaluable lessons about the kind of provider that I want to become. While I am sad to be leaving AmeriCorps and my host site, I will carry this year’s lessons with me for my entire career, and I am more excited than ever for what lies ahead.
This post was written by NPHC member Sarah Crowe.
Sarah serves at Squirrel Hill Health Center's Mobile Unit as a Patient Navigator.