By Michelle Featheringill
How often do we all just think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to work; it’s no big deal’? Lots of times would be my guess. I suspect that we all fall prey to the hamster on the wheel syndrome, whereby we just get caught up in the day-to-day experience (dare I say “rut”) of getting up, going to work and coming home. Occasionally things can happen that open our eyes to the actual importance and true meaning that our day-to-day work can have on someone else.
I recently had that experience.
Being new to Tri-County Health Network (TCHN), there has been a lot of the proverbial learning curve to contend with in getting settled in my new role. For me, the fastest way to get quickly immersed in my organization is to go directly out into the field and see first-hand how we are serving our communities.
To this end, I found myself going to the small community of Olathe not too long ago to “shadow” one of TCHN’s Patient Health Navigators (PHN). The role of a PHN is to work directly with healthcare clinicians and patients in a clinic (or hospital) setting. In short, he or she is a facilitator, teacher, expeditor (think bridge) between the healthcare provider and the patient. The PHN makes the patient’s healthcare visit easier to understand; provides important healthcare information; teaches basic nutritional and cooking fundamentals; provides simple, effective exercise options; and sometimes translates in the exam room during a healthcare visit.
It was in this role that I found out just how important the role of Tri-County Health Network was for one patient.
Our PHN, serving the River Valley Family Health Center, is incredibly integrated into the healthcare system and the providers in the clinic. She loves her work and it shows every day in her attitude, in her actions and how she works on behalf of the people in her community. On this particular day, she was asked to come in and translate for a brand new patient. English was not this patient’s first language; therefore, the clinician seeing her felt that she might not be able to adequately communicate.
I followed our PHN into the exam and settled in to quietly observe. What I found out had a profound impact on my view of both TCHN and our value to the community members we serve.
Turns out, this patient had specifically come in to establish herself as a new patient because she had attended a health screening with one of the Tri-County Health Network’s Community Health Workers (CHW). This is another, and different, position within the community worthy of its own blog posting. Some of the CHW responsibilities include healthcare screenings, such as cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, height and weight. Primarily, these screenings are designed to assess your risks for heart disease and diabetes, two conditions that are very prevalent in our area. Having gone through one of these screenings, this new patient was concerned about one of her results. This client had been advised by our CHW that her results warranted a visit to seek care and guidance from a professional healthcare provider.
So, a TCHN CHW had screened this new patient and told her that her results warranted a visit to a healthcare provider. Our TCHN PHN was now translating for the patient; providing her easy-to-understand guidance and lastly, was setting up a follow-up appointment to counsel her on nutrition, healthy cooking and simple exercises regimens.
Occasionally, isn’t it nice to find that all that running on the wheel is truly worth it?