Monday, February 20, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #5: Rachel Haney

When I applied to be an intern last summer, I knew Crossroad Health Center was an incredible place. Here in Cincinnati, Crossroad serves over 11,000 patients who struggle to access affordable healthcare—regardless of their ability to pay. As a nursing student who is passionate about public and global health, I was excited to be teaming with providers at Crossroad to continue their work in our city. 

At that time, I still didn't fully know how much this internship would affect me. I was ready to learn about the referral process, how to make phone calls to patients, how request records from/fax documents to offices, and how to document in the electronic health record. I was ready to be learning about how a federally-qualified health care center runs, ready to meet patients in the office, and ready to schedule as many appointments as possible.  
But I hadn't really prepared myself to hear all the stories of the patients here. To talk about their experiences, their struggles, their challenges, their life stories. During brief phone calls or while scheduling appointments in-person, there is time to listen and simply talk about life. While I perform my tasks as a volunteer (or VIPs as we're called around here!) such as looking up providers who are in network or waiting on hold, talking to the patients is a part of every shift.  

I have listened to a homeless man talk with joy about his jobs and his dream to have his own apartment one day. Heard a single mother worry about balancing her family and her multiple part-time jobs. Discussed bus lines and transportation issues with a young woman trying to find a job. Listened to a man's fears about losing his job after his recurrent seizures. In between the phone calls and documentation, there are opportunities to hear their stories. 
As interns we are focused on handling referrals and scheduling appointments. During shifts it is easy to forget that our patients are people, each with individual stories, backgrounds, and challenges. It is an honor to partner with them and to help ease a burden. By completing a simple, yet time-consuming task, you say, "you matter, your stories matter." 

Looking back over the past six months at Crossroad, I am so grateful for theopportunities I have had. I have gained experience working here and been able to communicate directly with patients every shifta rewarding job. Most of all though, I am grateful for the stories I have been able to hear. As I partner with these patients, they open up about their livesand thus open up my eyes to theoften overlooked challenges and joys of their lives.

-- Rachel Haney

Monday, February 13, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #4: Mitchell McMurray

I have noticed that in my six months of volunteering at Crossroad Health Center, each shift is different. Each patient is unique and as a result, each case requires a different quality out of me. Many times it’s empathy or compassion, but sometimes it is patience and adaptability. I quickly realized that scheduling a referral very rarely goes smoothly from beginning to end.  However, I think that’s what makes being a VIP fun. Here’s a quick example: there was case when I met with the patient in office and she gave me her strict availability. I made the appointment following the days and times she was available. However, when I called her to go over the appointment details, her availability had changed and I had to reschedule the appointment. It took several more calls to both the physician office and the patient to get everything finalized. During times like those, I have to remind myself that patience is a virtue. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the middle of working on a referral only to be asked to focus my attention on a different one by my referral team physician or a Medical Assistant. It sounds frustrating, but it’s an illustration of how much we are needed. A key quality of a successful VIP is the ability to adjust your work to fit the needs of the team. Crossroad needs us to break the barriers associated with their providers’ referrals. Specifically, we need to ensure that their patients are able to have scheduled appointments with specialists and that those patients actually attend the appointments. With that goal in mind, it was pretty easy to teach myself that I need to be adaptable enough to accommodate as many patient cases as possible during my shift. Every patient is important. Using that logic has led me to realize that every patient also has a story. Stories of economic hardship, addiction, life-threatening accidents, and immigration are what get me out of bed every Tuesday morning to drive to Crossroad. As a VIP, I realize that I play a role in the fight these patients have against their obstacles. Every time I schedule an appointment for them, I hope they are one step closer to getting to where they need to be. It’s not an easy thought process to maintain, but I didn’t sign up for easy. Crossroad continues to challenge me every week and for that I am truly grateful.

     -- Mitchell McMurray

Monday, February 6, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #3: Bhargav Vemuri

One of the most important aspects of having a meaningful VIP experience is keeping "the big picture" in mind. At its essence, work as a VIP can be broken down into a series of repetitive tasks – making calls, taking notes, sending letters, documenting in NextGen, etc. However, these seemingly mundane tasks literally do make a world of difference to each and every patient in the Crossroad system.
If you've ever had to schedule an appointment with a specialist for yourself, you know firsthand how difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming the process can be. For many of the patients that Crossroad serves, this process's intricacy is exacerbated by things like not having reliable cell service or transportation, having rigorous work schedules, and coming from a low income class. When these less-than-pleasant factors are compounded with medical issues, it can be extremely overwhelming from a patient's perspective to seek proper care.
As a VIP, you have the opportunity, and privilege, to make an impact on the lives of those who could really use the help. Having been at Crossroad for a little over a semester, I've encountered numerous patients that are beyond grateful for the (admittedly simple) work that we do. Having to follow-up on medical issues is a significant stressor for anyone, and being able to eliminate, or at least reduce, that stress from people's lives is very rewarding.
Although it may seem at times like you're just "going through the motions" during your shift, always keep in mind that every task you complete in the office is a direct impact on someone's life and well-being. Through these weekly shifts, and over the course of hundreds of calls, notes, letters, and NextGen entries, VIPs are slowly but surely improving the health of the community that Crossroad serves. And I can't think of anything more noble or worthwhile than that. 
I can undoubtedly say that my experience as a VIP thus far has reaffirmed by desire to pursue a career in healthcare and, ultimately, helping others. 

-- Bhargav Vemuri

Monday, January 30, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #2: "Reassurance" by Costina Luc

I've had some time to look back on my experience at Crossroad Health Center. The impact that I have made, the lives that I have touched, and the understanding I have gained regarding the gaps in healthcare. There is an aspect that rises above all and that is the people that I have met along this journey. From patients, to primary care providers, and the volunteers in the internship program all have made a significant impact on me personally and professionally.

The patients that I’ve interacted with taught me the importance of understanding and privilege. It has come to a point where patients have begun recognizing my voice and I’ve started building connections. It’s been a revelation how 10-20 minutes of my day could help improve someone else’s day by a tenfold. The patients you meet here at Crossroad Health Center show the most appreciation and gratification for the little things the volunteers complete. The primary providers have taught me to be selfless, passionate, and the fundamentals of advocating. They have begun to be a resource I can approach, whether it be advice, questions regarding a patient, or learning more about the health field. The volunteers have taught me how to be a leader, improving my communication skills, and team-working. These skills have helped me grow and change to be the person I am today; to become a leader in the health field. It has taught me my strengths and weaknesses and has helped me improve in ways I couldn’t have imagined. You find a group of people that share similar passion and goals here at CHC – people that help inspire and motivate you.

My experience at Crossroad Health Center has reassured me on my future goals. It has fortified my passion to pursue a career in the health field. It has guided me in learning about the reality of medicine and its gaps that I hope to bridge. I look forward to not only bridging this gap but also to inform others of the great opportunities Crossroad Health center has to offer.

For anyone who has searched for a way to make a direct impact, to help the community, or to learn more about a career in the health field I highly recommend Crossroad Health Center and the Volunteer Internship Program. It’s been the best decision of my college career and has helped me in ways I can’t fully express. YOU, the people reading this, are the reasons why the program continues to improve. New volunteers bring in ideas and have the power to make the change they wish to see – to put it into perspective the CVIP was created BY volunteers. The possibilities here at CHC are endless.

--Costina Luc

Monday, January 23, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #1: Steve Walden

I applied to the Crossroad VIP program thinking “what have I got to offer this program?” As a non-traditional student with limited volunteer/community service experience I suspected that I might not fit in and match the needs/wants of the program. What I did have was extensive experience in retail customer service as well as familiarity with the electronic health record as a medical scribe. As it turns out, these skills are just what you need to be a VIP.

As a VIP your first responsibility is to feel comfortable making “cold calls” to patients who may or may not need help scheduling specialty appointments. This initial VIP presentation should be a positive experience for the patient who should feel confident that the VIP team will be able to help them arrange specialty care at a location and time reasonably convenient for them to attend.

Next comes the call to the specialty office. The VIP will navigate the phone tree and eventually come in contact with the scheduler. You had better be ready with all of the patient’s information: name, DOB, address, phone #, reason for referral, and oh yeah, these schedulers will sometimes throw you a curveball or two.

Now, if you have successfully run this gauntlet and scheduled a workable appointment for your patient, be ready for the rapid-fire round of appointment details and important information. Have your pen and paper ready for not only the date and time but also the address, floor, suite #, office #, fax # and list of things the patient should bring such as photo ID, insurance card and list of current medications. You had better get it all down accurately the first time, it would not be very professional or courteous to make the scheduler repeat him or herself.

Now, you call the patient back and give them the good news! You have successfully scheduled their referral! And the bad news…they had better get a pen and paper for all of these important details. Please, future VIP, please do not quickly run through these important details like the scheduler. Make sure you pass this important information along accurately and methodically so that the patient can get it all down, it’s their appointment after all.

You’ve scheduled the appointment, you’ve shared the news with the patient, time to pat yourself on the back for a job well done, right? WRONG! Now you must document, document, document, etc… Be sure to include all of the important details on the referral calendar so that your fellow VIPs can make reminder calls. Now you’re done, right? NO! You must document the appointment as scheduled in orders management; be sure to include all of the important details so that other Crossroad employees can view the info. Finally, that’s it, right? WAIT! Don’t forget to document the telephone call as a patient communication, mark the referral in the VIP binder, and leave any extra notes for your team members in the communication log.

Whew, excellent referral work! Now it’s time for another…

-- Steve Walden