When I was applying to Crossroads, I read and wrote about the social determinants of health minority populations face. However, volunteering at Crossroads magnified how flawed our healthcare system truly is. Sometimes, when I am scheduling a patient’s referral, I cannot get them an appointment until months later. They are in pain or struggling in their daily lives, but it is not classified as an emergency, so they have to wait until it becomes an emergency. Then, they have to pay much costlier prices, even though they did the right thing by seeking help when they knew they were in trouble. It may even cause individuals to stop searching for care because they know it will be pointless. Often I am unable to book them a sooner date because their insurance is rarely accepted. Other times I have patients who do not have access to transportation to places that are 20 minutes away, and so they have to wait longer for appointments at the closer, yet busier locations. Sometimes I have patients who work 9-5 jobs that cannot afford to leave work for an appointment. Crossroads opened my eyes to the many heartbreaking situations in which people are unable to obtain ideal healthcare.
In the beginning, I wondered if I was actually making an impact in my community. Then, I had my first call where a patient genuinely appreciated me for accommodating their schedule so that they could attend a screening. From that point onward, I reflected on my value at Crossroads. I do truly love talking to patients whether it is to just obtain their availability or to listen to the struggles they are facing in their lives with their job or kids. I love being able to praise them for being brave and independent as they attend as many appointments as they can to take care of their health despite the obstacles they face. I love being able to validate their challenges and encourage them to keep trying. I love being able to treat members of my community as individuals and not just numbers. Crossroads has opened my eyes and ears to why I want to enter the healthcare field: because there is a glaring gap in the care marginalized communities receive, and I want to be able to connect them to better resources. I was recently told “do not say no, do know”. It basically means that as a healthcare worker, you may be treating people who are less knowledgeable about their health, so be there for them with compassion and education, or try to direct them to someone who can provide them with that.