Thursday, October 22, 2020

#theVIPexperience Post #115: Manasa Sunkara

As a volunteer for CHC, I work as a referral specialist and my duties include scheduling referral appointments, sending reminder calls and letters, and organizing transportation for the patient. When I first joined the program, I told my coordinator that I had translating experience, which she was enthusiastic to hear and connected me with the other Spanish-speaking interns in the program. Out of such a huge program, only a handful of students had sufficient language skills to work with their Hispanic population. I found this concerning because the Spanish-speaking community in the surrounding area is large and quickly growing. 


The first time I opened the list of Spanish patients was a wakeup call. Instead of a one-day turnaround for scheduling referral appointments, the sheet indicated at least a one to two week delay before these patients were first contacted. They received much less time and effort than their English-speaking counterparts, largely due to lack of capable translators to help them. Approximately two months ago, I completed my first referral for a Spanish-speaking patient. When I picked up the phone to call them, I had my laptop open to my Spanish dictionary and anxiously waited for the dread of needing to look up unfamiliar words. Though I am usually confident in my language skills, I lacked training in medical Spanish and felt inadequate. 


When the patient answered, I quickly asked my rehearsed questions to help her schedule an appointment. Without delay, she replied fervently, explaining that she had been trying to do it herself for weeks with no such luck due to her limited English. Having asked her the necessary questions, I hung up with a promise to callback once it was scheduled. Once I put down my phone, I realized I had spoken to the patient the entire time, without using the dictionary I had pulled up. Most importantly, despite the remote nature of this type of translating, I had understood the patient, and she had understood me. I successfully navigated my first Spanish referral and afterwards felt confident in my abilities to help similar individuals. When I called her to confirm her appointment, the sound of utter relief in her voice cemented why I continue my language studies and translation work. I want to be a physician who can serve as many people as I can. Working with Spanish speaking patients showed me the dramatic impact that social factors have on patients’ health and wellness. I am excited to become even better with medical translation - and continue broadening my ability to help patients from diverse backgrounds.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

#theVIPexperience Post #114: Jenna David

Throughout my time at Crossroads, I have learned quite a bit about myself and my place

within my future career, as well as my place within the pandemic. With all the changes that have

happened during this year, I felt quite lost about how I can still be a part and help my

community. I decided to take a chance and apply for the Crossroads internship in order to step

into the community and see what I could do during COVID. I am so glad that I took a chance not

only on myself but took a chance on crossroads to immerse myself in volunteering and solidarity

in the community. I have grown in my confidence to speak professionally between clinical

providers and be able to talk to patients with compassion. In addition, I have been able to

practice patience and gratitude even amongst the hard and frustrating times that comes with

dealing with patients. I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to be part of an organization

that strives to minimize the gap within healthcare and provide accessible health care to all people

regardless of income, race, or religion. Crossroads has given me a sense of purpose within this

pandemic and has helped solidify my love for not only volunteering, but for medicine. My

confidence in myself, in my abilities, and my respect for those within the healthcare field has

grown immensely during my time with Crossroads, and I can’t wait for what my 3 rd rotation has

in store for me, especially with our projects.


#theVIPexperience Post #113: Harman Hayer

When I moved to college, I struggled to grow familiar with a new community at UC after being so involved in my high school and home community. I searched for organizations and clubs that would give me the chance to make a difference in my community while starting a new chapter in my life. I felt like the perfect opportunity had fallen into my lap when I heard about Crossroad Health Center and the VIP program. The program would allow me to use my strengths to make a change while working towards my goal of going into healthcare. Although my first and current shifts are remote, I feel like I have still gotten an immersive experience and have learned a lot about myself and my skills. At first, I didn’t feel comfortable speaking with patients and hesitated out of fear of making a mistake. However, after going through the referral process a few times, I became fond of our patient population and excited for my shifts. I enjoy speaking with patients and hearing about their days. I also hear the struggles they experience when trying to schedule appointments. Personally, I have been able to schedule my appointments easily but was shocked to hear how difficult the process can become when you have to consider factors like insurance and transportation. It has been very eye-opening and driven me to work harder towards challenging systemic disparities. Since the beginning of my time with Crossroad Health Center, I have grown more confident in my communication skills and am able to effectively communicate with patients I meet at my job as a dental assistant. I am grateful for the opportunity to be in the VIP program and highly recommend it to others.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

#theVIPexperience Post #112: Bailey Ullah

As I am in the middle of my second rotation at Crossroad, I reflect and think about how different my experience as a CVIP is compared to interns in previous years. I began my first rotation off-site, which is not the norm, and has caused me to encounter some challenges along the way. Starting off was very difficult, only having someone on the phone talk me through the referral process made it seem very overwhelming. I remember my first call, a one-day reminder call, I was so nervous and unsure of what to say. I had to keep the conversation guidelines pulled up next to RedCap and Athena. Since that call, I have become a lot more comfortable with navigating through the referral process. I now have no problem obtaining one’s availability and getting started on scheduling an appointment. This has made each and every shift more enjoyable, just knowing that my efforts are helping improve the lives of others, even if it appears miniscule. Each shift that I have is different than the last, having the ability to talk to people from so many different walks of life and trying to aid them through this process. The reactions from the patients varies, I have had patients that have been genuinely appreciative when calling, but there have been times when I call & the patient does not appear to be in a good mood, sometimes even cussing. But regardless of their response, I am glad to have made an impact on the process, understanding that people react differently is huge. Sometimes people are having a bad day, or something happened, and they just so happen to take it out on you, or they are stressed and give you attitude. It is super important to understand this and realize that it is not personal, and that they probably are grateful to have some help, they might just have other issues that require more attention. As I prepare for my third rotation and my project, it excites me to have more time to learn more about the referral process and ways I can personally help improve the medical care experience.


#theVIPexperience Post #111: Arihant Chordia

As a student on the pre-health track, majoring in Biology or Neuroscience is merely the tip of an iceberg to be a healthcare professional.  Though the knowledge that comes with sitting in a classroom is valuable, experiences makes up a vast majority of the knowledge a healthcare professional obtains.  One of these valuable experiences that I am glad to be a part of is Crossroads Volunteer Internship Program (VIP).  Starting this position during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic did make things a little different.  During this pandemic all work for Crossroads was done off-site.  Although everything was online, I realized I am able to make a greater impact on my community during such a difficult time, which motivated me to help as many patients as possible.  My job as a Crossroad VIP is a lot different from volunteer positions I have participated in the past.  During my shifts, I directly talk to patients and schedule their appointments.  Developing this relationship with patients is very crucial in the healthcare field.  I remember one call with a patient, I was just talking to them for nearly 25 minutes.  I had already scheduled the appointment for the patient, but they wanted to talk to me because they were, in their words, “lonely”.  At this moment, it made me realize how much of a difference I can make on patients in and around Cincinnati.  During this call I was able to keep the patient company for a little bit and simply allow them to talk to someone.  Although this has only happened once, as an aspiring healthcare worker, I feel it is crucial to form that connection with each patient, so they feel the most comfortable.  To me, being a VIP goes further than just scheduling appointments for patients but rather having them feel comfortable during the conversation and allow them to ask questions.  During a of a global pandemic, many patients can be stressed or confused, thus allowing for that comfort allows the patient to be at ease when talking to a VIP.  My experience so far in Crossroads has been very insightful.  Even though all meetings and tasks have been online, I have been able to connect with new people and gain new perspectives in the field of healthcare.  Overall, I am very happy to have applied and been accepted to this program allowing me to further my experiences in the field of healthcare.  Through this program I have developed new skills allowing me to dig deeper within the ice and uncover the vast depth of healthcare.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

#theVIPexperience Post #110: Ariel Alappatt

I have been working for Crossroads as a VIP since June of 2020 and so far I have learned a lot about the logistics behind referrals, giving me insight to the referral process. I have also improved my ability to communicate with patients and office staff over the phone. One of the biggest learning experiences has been communicating with Spanish-speaking patients over the phone and discussing complex financial information with them. 


At first I was very nervous to call Spanish-speaking patients because I was worried I would not be able to hear and understand them and then I would mess something up for them when scheduling. I found that writing out what I was going to say helped me with my confidence and made it easier to call patients. When I finally did talk to a Spanish-speaking patient for the first time I felt accomplished because it was something that I worked on and ended up helping someone else. It also made me feel like I was on track with my goals because one of the main reasons I decided to be a VIP is so that I could improve my Spanish-speaking skills and interact with that community in Cincinnati. Eventually, I want to practice medicine in an area with a large Spanish-speaking community, so by beginning to develop those skills now it feels like I am moving forward with my goals. 


Since then, I have interacted with more patients and ran into new problems like financial aid. I realized that many Spanish-speaking patients do not have insurance whether because of the language barrier so they do not know how or because they are not a citizen of the U.S. so they cannot apply for Medicaid. This is a difficult issue because if they cannot get any money and they do not have enough themselves for their visits how can they get sufficient care? I realized that people in this situation often have to choose between which appointments are more important so they may get seen for their Rheumatoid arthritis but not their toothache. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to schedule these patients at locations like UC Health that provide financial assistance and lower cost offices so they can still get the care they need. 


After this realization, I feel as if my position at Crossroads is truly important to those that struggle with finding affordable care, which motivates me to work harder for our patients. I look forward to learning more during my time as a VIP and having more opportunities to help those who need it most.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

#theVIPexperience Post #109: Amisha Saini

About 347,126,472 seconds - that is the amount of time it will take for me to finish my undergraduate degree, medical school, and four years of residency. While evaluating the next eleven years of my life, I realized my journey is not about the money or about a higher status in society; it is about equalized healthcare. I want to work towards providing anyone-no matter their status- with the healthcare they deserve, without any discrimination. It should not matter what insurance they have, what the color of their skin is, or the socioeconomic status they hold.

Becoming a volunteer intern at Crossroads Health Center has allowed me to serve the underprivileged by scheduling referral appointments. I have now become an advocate for these patients’ healthcare rights. I find that this internship is slightly like driving a car. I think that during every shift you come into contact with a plethora of different scenarios that are different than ones you have experience with or have been trained for much like every time you drive a car, you face a different situation with different cars around you. In these experiences, I have learned a couple of lessons:

One is the influence insurance has on healthcare in our country. The discordance between hospitals and insurance companies is astounding. Going through referrals where insurance is an issue are truly an eye-opening experience. I have never had to think about insurance or how there are two bills that need to be covered at the end of an appointment- one for the hospital and one for the doctor. Only people who are financially stable or have good benefits from work can afford insurance that truly covers all their medical needs. Most of the patients at Crossroads do not fall into this category; and as a VIP, I can fix these problems or play a part in at least minimizing this discord.

I have also learned to never give up on your patient. Though clich̩, patience and persistence are key. There are some referrals that have obstacle upon obstacle blocking you from your goal of trying to help the patient. These are the times that test you Рthe times where I have learned to keep my voice gentle- to take deep breaths and continue doing my job. In healthcare, patience is particularly important. I have a job to do and while obstacles are frustrating, it is important to remember what my goal is: to make sure that the patient receives the care that he/she needs.

These seemingly obvious lessons were ones I knew of before I started as an intern; but I got to experience them as a VIP. I feel the struggles and frustrations of the patients I talk to. And because of the patience and persistence I have learned, I take that burden off the patients. Scheduling one appointment in a patient’s journey to getting the care he/she needs seems like a small, meaningless task when you look on it from the outside, but once you become a VIP, I think that is when you truly understand the struggles people encounter in the healthcare system and you realize that what you are doing actually has meaning- your effort makes a difference.