As I sit in my office on my second to last day of service, writing this blog post seems difficult. The prompt is “How has NHC impacted your life?”. What’s difficult about this question is not coming up with an answer, but narrowing it down to one or two things because if I really wrote everything about how NHC has impacted me it would go on for pages and pages. When I initially applied to the National Health Corps it was because I wanted to gain more experience in the public health field before pursuing my master’s degree in public health. After serving ten months as a patient advocate with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health I have gained that public health experience and so much more.
One of the most valuable things I learned this service term was how to be an effective advocate. The Prescription Assistance Office exists to assist patients in applying to programs so they can receive their medication at no cost. When I first started my service term I didn’t know much about prescription assistance programs or how they worked. I have since learned that these programs are another confusing aspect of healthcare set up in a way that makes it difficult for patients to access. Many of the programs require you to fax or mail the applications, call to check on the status (which can sometimes take hours), and then sign for many of the medications when they are delivered. Depending on a patient's situation, some or all of these things are not possible for them to dedicate time to. The requirements for each program also vary to an extent that some patients qualify for one program but not another. It can also take weeks of following up with the company and sending paperwork multiple times for a patient to actually get approved for a program. Working with these companies every day has given me a chance to become familiar with their requirements and learn some tricks that can help patients get approved a little bit easier. It’s become clear to me how important it is to have advocates like our members in these positions to ensure our patients are able to live their best lives.
Navigating these programs was one aspect of NHC that was challenging for me at times. This taught me the importance of having a support system to lean on when you need help too. The people that I have met this year in my cohort, at my host site, and even at outside service events are some of the most kind and genuine people I have ever met. I have learned more than I ever anticipated just from my interactions with them throughout the service term. I’ve become a better friend and person because of everything they have taught me this year. I’m incredibly thankful to NHC for putting me in a position to create those relationships and grow throughout the term. The lessons I learned and the knowledge I gained about things from trauma informed care to making kombucha (thanks Eija!) will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I know that this experience will be invaluable to me in my future endeavors as a public health professional.