Monday, April 17, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #13: Michaela Slevin

          My experience within the VIP program began during the summer of 2016. I was between my sophomore and junior years at Xavier University and eager to begin an opportunity that I have heard about over and over again, during presentations in my first year science classes. I was excited and could not fully anticipate what was in store for me at the Crossroad Harrison location. What I walked into was a deeply rooted community that spanned across Harrison and the surrounding areas, to help neighbors achieve their best health. I was immediately struck by the kindness of each staff member, the eagerness of the other VIPs and the perseverance of each patient I interacted with. The referral appointments were rolling in and I was feeling pretty confident. The tipping point for me was when I realized that Crossroad is not “just a doctor’s office,” although that is where I used to tell people I was spending my time, “a doctor’s office.” I began to realize that the services Crossroad provides go so much deeper than a well-check once a year.
            In the community I grew up in, there was no question about whether or not we would be going to the doctor each year. After coming to Crossroads, I found myself discovering that not everyone has the luxury of knowing that their medical care is taken care of, no questions asked. Not everyone has a parent able to schedule for them, not everyone has a parent able to take them to their appointments. To me, this was an unanticipated and surprising realization that I found myself grappling with at the conclusion of my first rotation. After postponing a semester and returning during the spring 2017 rotation, I again found myself getting into the ebb and flow of referral calls. But the realizations from the previous summer stuck with me and have been amplified over the past months. Medical care, at Crossroads, is not just the check-up with a doctor or scheduling one appointment, which I always took for granted. Medical care is more direct, all-encompassing and time-intensive at Crossroads, to assist those who are experiencing many circumstances that are out of their control. Never did I realize how important getting to work on time, not missing a shift, not missing the bus was, but to our patients, it is essential. That is where I would like to come in. As a VIP, I feel it has become my responsibility to help them get to their work shift, take care of their sick child and make the bus, when they need to. I strive to be a resource for our patients, one that they can utilize and rely on, rather than being another hurdle to conquer. I am extremely grateful for this experience, as it has opened my eyes to the intricacies of medical care and the leaps and bounds some must go through to attend an appointment I always took for granted.

Monday, April 10, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #12: Kaitlyn Davis

My time at Crossroad Health Center has been eye opening in so many different ways. About two years ago I started working with Children’s Hospital in the Emergency Department/ Urgent Care. Patients were seen in a timely manner; in and then out. This is not to take away from the care that they received. Upon starting my time here at Crossroad I was able to shadow a primary care physician. The care that they give is much different than the care in the Emergency Department/Urgent Care due to the pace of the setting. My thoughts on medicine were narrow and because of Crossroad Health Center they are now more broad. Continuity of care is so important and that is exactly what the physicians at Crossroad Health Center focus on. Every member of the team takes the time to know their patients and make each experience for them as pleasurable as it can be.

When a patient first arrives their vitals are taken and then they are walked to an exam room where they wait to be seen by the physician. Upon the physician entering the room introductions are done and the physician takes the time to get to know why the patient is there. If it is a child, as was the case with my shadowing experience, the physician takes the time to talk to the child and make them a part of the experience, no matter their age. After the physical exam takes place the physician decides if the patient needs a referral. This is where my personal experience with the patient happened. If the family would like to schedule right away I would meet with them in person and schedule the appointment. If they would not like to schedule in person, I would call them at home and help.

What really surprised me throughout this experience was the need for the help with referrals. Before volunteering I was not aware that scheduling appointments could be an issue for families. As I have learned everyone does not have access to a telephone to call and schedule the appointments and some do not even know where to begin in terms of scheduling. Being able to do something for someone that makes their day is more rewarding than anything I have done before. At first I was not sure how my role as a referral specialist would directly effect patient care, in terms of continuity, but I have been more than pleasantly surprised that my time at Crossroad Health Center has helped me grow as a person and helped with patient and provider continuity.

      -- Kaitlyn Davis

Monday, April 3, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #11: Angela Ellis

My experience at Crossroads has truly been an incredible one. I am one of two people who works in the Spanish referral team. As a daughter of an immigrant mother from Peru who herself had often faced adversities, especially in receiving health care, when she first arrived to the US, Crossroads really hit home. The Spanish referral team is much like the other referral teams we have at Crossroads, but it's at the same time very different because we deal with patients who more than often struggle more than the majority of the under-deserved population we cater to. For one, they have a language barrier which can be a huge struggle to get the care and help they need if they have a difficult time explaining what's causing them pain.  

Another issue I often come across is that the majority of our Spanish-speaking patients don't have medical insurance because they're not US citizens and therefore can't qualify for services such as Medicaid. However, thanks to UC University Hospital, they have a financial aid program in which patients can be covered for three months at a time if they don't qualify for Medicaid.  However, this process can be lengthy and often times difficult since they need to apply and have to have the necessary documents for them to get approved. Moreover, the financial aid program only covers them for three months at a time, which means they need to reapply every three months to have coverage of their medical needs. 

Yet, through it all, when patients finally get approved and get the appointments and care they need, it is all worth it because you go step by step with them through the entire process just so that they can get basic medical care. They are eternally grateful and are always so patient. 

The patients at Crossroads, especially the Spanish speaking ones, have allowed me to cater to and help my own community here in Cincinnati. It has shown me the very own issues and problems we're having with healthcare in my own backyard. It have given me a sliver of what I hope to do in the future as a primary care physician catering to those that are most often neglected and ignored when it comes to health care. 

-- Angela Ellis

Friday, March 31, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #10: Shannon Cunningham

                  After every single shift, I understand something more about the population served at Crossroad Health Center in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. I initially found interest in and applied to the volunteer internship program because I was drawn to the intersection between my major revolving around politics and natural sciences/premed. Despite my privilege growing up in a middle class suburban family, I recognized systemic poverty from a young age as an issue affecting a larger population that many politicians, corporations, and economically well off people fail to acknowledge.
At no older than eight years old, I remember walking around the streets of Chicago with my family confused and frustrated as to why so many of my fellow humans did not have basic amenities and resources life calls for. Throughout my upbringing, experiences, and education, I came to firmly believe that regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, and any other marginalized group, every single individual deserves necessities including food, housing, safety, and health care. However, all too often these basic needs are not met. According to CityLink Center, here in Cincinnati in 2015 30.9% of Cincinnati residents live in poverty or over 86,000 people, which is nearly double the national poverty rate and Ohio poverty rate. In other words, one in three Cincinnatians live below the poverty line. In 2012, Cincinnati had the second highest child poverty rate in the nation with a little more than half of all Cincinnati children living in poverty. In 2011, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported, Hamilton County experienced the fifth highest infant mortality rate and the highest rate for African Americans in the country. Causes of poverty are complex as they often are engrained into the functions of society; however, feeding, clothing, and performing healthcare shouldn’t be.
As important as they are, knowing all the facts in figures out there doesn’t matter unless experiences are had to cultivate feelings and thoughts of empathy. My experience at Crossroad Health Center has done just that. Recognizing the significance of a little task or small interaction during our work as VIP’s, can be difficult in the moment. But when I hear the change in tone of patients’ voices on the phone lighten with relief when they hear an appointment was scheduled or see smiles on patients’ faces when they shake your hand after speaking with them in office about their referrals, I remember I am improving the life of a fellow human. Simply, those interactions matter the most.

-- Shannon Cunningham

Monday, March 20, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #9: Hannah Lodin

Being an intern at Crossroad has been an eye-opening experience.  As a pre-med student, I had done plenty of shadowing before coming to Crossroad, but it was always in my hometown, a wealthy suburban community.  My first few weeks shadowing at Crossroad were an entirely different experience.  I saw patients who couldn’t afford to pay for necessary medications, who were undocumented immigrants, and who didn’t speak English.  I saw the many barriers to care that Crossroad’s patient population faces, and the many inventive solutions that people who work at Crossroad are implementing to make accessing care easier for their patients.   One of those solutions, is of course, the VIP program.

As a new VIP, I wasn’t sure what to expect from patients during the referral process, but the vast majority of the people I have helped over the past several months have been kind and grateful.  Some of the referrals I work on can be difficult.  A patient could have multiple specialist referrals, a restrictive insurance company, or need transportation—or maybe even a combination of the three.  There are few things more satisfying that following a difficult referral from beginning to end.  It’s great to get the appointments made for the patients, but it’s also great to do the follow up calls and see that they attended their appointments, and that you played a role in getting them the care they need.

It’s easy to see the majority of my role as an intern as making phone calls and running into red tape along the way.  The process of making an appointment at a specialist might not seem like it has a huge impact, but when you consider what it means for the patient, you can see it in an entirely new light.  My call to the specialist is one less call that the patient has to make, and less time that the patient has to take out of their already busy lives to navigate what can be a confusing process.  As an intern at Crossroad, I am fortunate to be able to provide a service for people that is valuable and meaningful, and that gives them the opportunity to invest in their health.

-- Hannah Lodin

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #8: Anna Klunk

Crossroad is a wonderful community. I hear many VIPs say they are thankful for this experience because it exposes them to “how the other half lives”. They had no idea that this underserved population could be so thankful, and kind. I came into Crossroad already knowing that. These patients are people just like me, and they deserve my respect just as much as anyone else. I love Crossroad because the providers see their patients the same way I do: as people. Just people. They do not need to categorize them as, oh, that is a homeless person. No he or she is just a person. And at Crossroad, people look out for each other.

Prior to my experience at Crossroad, I had never looked into how other medical communities provided care to best fit the needs of the population they are serving. That was until I came across an experience with my own medical provider. They made assumptions about my privilege, and sent me away with instructions that I could not follow because I could not afford them. This opened my eyes to how the majority of the medical community operates, and what makes Crossroad so different.

This experience with my own doctor showed me how truly important my job at Crossroad can be for the patients that attend. I remember how alone I felt as I sat in my car after realizing I could not afford the specialty care that had been referred to me, and that is where it ended. No one followed up with me to see if I needed help, or if there were other options, I was on my own. Crossroad is so special because we put forth the extra effort to make sure that the patients know we are there for them, and that we will do whatever it takes to get them the care they need, whether it means holding for 20 minutes trying to contact a hospital, getting in touch with financial aid services, or working with insurance companies to see what we can do to create the best possible option for the patient.

I am thankful to be a VIP at Crossroad because it allows me to make a difference in someone’s life each time I work. In addition, it has taught me that I can make a difference later in my life as well should I continue on to practice medicine.

-- Anna Klunk

Monday, March 6, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #7: Erica Lampert

            Before my experience here at Crossroads, I always thought going to the doctor was a normal, annual process that everyone was able to do. I never once considered that maybe a trip to the doctor’s office would cost someone their meal for the night, or that going to get medicine for a cold would leave a child in their house all alone. Before interning here, I never imagined that anyone could consider anything else more important than their health—without health, how was anyone to function normally in life? It was silly to me that some people would skip the doctors because they wanted to work instead, or because they just couldn’t find the time to go. I was shocked that people just never even considered going to the doctors because to me, health is something that should be important to everyone. If you had to skip work or school to go to a doctor’s appointment, then you should do it because it is important. I was naïve, however, because I never put myself in the shoes of those who could not merely skip work, who could not simply get to their appointments, or those who could not simply afford the appointments. Interning at Crossroad Health Center has really opened my eyes as to why the doctors isn’t always the biggest priority in everyone’s mind.
            If a person is living in poverty, having the insurance, money, and transportation to attend the appointment is extremely difficult to do. There are many times that I have to call patients to remind them of their appointments the following day, and end up having to quickly call the doctor’s office and cancel that appointment because the patient doesn’t have the money to pay for it right now. There has also been several times that a patient is turned away from a doctor’s office because of their insurance, even though they may be facing a serious medical condition. I never understood until now that for some people, making and attending a doctor’s appointment is not worth the trouble of dealing with their cold, depression, or aching foot. To call off work might mean calling off dinner for the rest of the family so they can pay for the appointment they needed for their liver problems. Until I actually interacted with patients, I never understood how much is actually going on in their lives to make going to the doctor obsolete.
            There has also been too many times to count where I have had to cancel appointments because someone had lost their brother, aunt, mother, father, cousin, uncle, or child, and was not in the state of mind to attend that appointment. I have never had to deal with losing someone like that, so I never even consider losing someone as a factor as to why people could not go to the appointments made for them. When someone is living in poverty, it is hard to make something like health a priority when a million other more important things are going on around them.  Work must always come first because money is essential to surviving in that lifestyle. Without work, there is no way to pay for anything, thus resulting in more poverty and making it harder to live a healthy life style. A life in poverty is a domino effect, and I wish there was some way to implement health without having to take from everyone’s pocketbook.
            Before coming to Crossroads, I never understood why something so simple to me, was not done by millions of others who needed it. I didn’t understand that giving up a day to go to a checkup, or to figure out why your headaches are so bad, was a huge problem to those living in poverty. Crossroads has opened me up to experiences that I have never faced before, allowing me to understand why my job there is so essential to the program. It isn’t easy for everyone to just take off wok and come see a doctor, nor is it easy to not get help and work in order to put food on the table. Health in poverty needs to be looked at more seriously and more closely, and thanks to Crossroads I am now able to do just that.

-- Erica Lampert