The first time I visited Crossroad, my first inclination was to turn around in the opposite direction. I grew up in small town Indiana. Everyone is white, middle class, and knows one another. When I entered OTR, I was propelled into a new world, one with an underserved population. I have always wanted to be a doctor and have done the usual preparations: advanced science classes, research, job shadowing, etc. However, my few short months at Crossroad has helped me discover a whole new side of healthcare: patients’ struggles.
My first couple of weeks included job shadowing, where I was paired with Dr. O’Dea. This was unlike any shadowing experience I have had before. Dr. O’Dea was really engaged with me. She was sure to give me each patient’s background before we entered the room and after each visit, answered the barrage of questions I had about each appointment. She was also the PCP that got the Spanish-speaking patients. Having studied the language in Chile three years prior, it was a lot of fun testing my skills with these patients and even learning some new vocabulary.
One thing that hit me the most while shadowing was when a patient did not show up to the appointment (of which there were plenty), Dr. O’Dea was not angry or discouraged. Other providers I have shadowed in the past would become irritated when a patient was a “no-show” and would view it as a sign of disrespect. However, Dr. O’Dea informed that many of the patients are so busy that a doctor’s appointment is the last thing on their minds. Many work multiple jobs or jobs that have long or irregular shift hours. Some cannot get childcare or transportation. She explained that this does not anger her, but saddens her that these people’s lives are so crazy busy that they have to put their own health on the backburner. It was at that moment I realized healthcare was not as simple as I thought it to be.
Working as a CVIP has shown me that patients need support as well. This job isn’t easy. I can make dozens of phone calls a day and get nothing but voicemails, disconnected numbers, or disgruntled patients. It can be hard keeping up with the multiple cases we are assigned. It can be frustrating communicating with some patients. It is certainly disheartening when you cannot schedule an urgent appointment for a patient just because of insurance or limited availability. However, there is obviously good that comes from it. The satisfaction of finally making the appointment, the humility learned from listening to the patients’ stories, and the gracious smile and “thank you Ms. Erica” that a patient gives after you help them. I certainly recommend becoming a CVIP. It is an eye-opening, inspiring, and gratifying experience that you cannot get at just any hospital. I am grateful to every provider, fellow VIP, and patient that has made this experience so worth it.
-- Erica Geers