The Many Faces of Barnabas

“We’re not only medical personnel; we also almost double as social workers.” A physician assistant recently shared this with me at Barnabas Health Services. Looking back on a month of service as a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member, I completely agree with her statement. At Barnabas, staff and volunteers alike serve communities that are 200% below the poverty line in Nassau County. These patients do not qualify for health insurance so hospitals often send them to our clinic for medical assistance at a greatly reduced cost when they cannot afford the hospital bill. My role at the Barnabas host site is as a Patient Care Coordinator, and I am responsible for educating patients on chronic disease and managing the follow up of their medical appointments.

We do everything we possibly can for our patients. I think this is what led our physician assistant to make that comment about our double occupation (service)  status.  Even on busy days, we try and make sure we take care of all of the patients’ needs. On a really hectic day, there can be a few medical providers seeing patients in the clinic, filling patient rooms and the waiting room. On those days, it also seems convenient for patients to come in for walk-ins (because we rarely turn patients away). Regardless, we make sure that all the patients’ needs are cared for including but are not limited to: receiving all of their necessary medications at an affordable price, proper education about their having transportation home, and receiving free mental health and nutrition counseling. For example, one staff member will be educating the patient on his/her diabetes management, another will be heading to the food pantry to assemble a bag of appropriate foods to give the patient, and another member will be ensuring that the patient receives all of the required medication at an affordable price. Medicine is a team sport and if it wasn’t for this team work, the clinic would not run as smoothly as it does.

A gentleman came in a few days ago with his right arm in a sling and was using a yardstick as a cane. He had all of his medical records and medications in a big plastic bag. He appeared a little disorientated and had not showered in at least a few days.  It is always sad to see a person that cannot take care of themselves or that have been forgotten by family or loved ones step into our clinic. After I took his information, he saw a medical provider at our office. We gave him a walker from our resale store to replace the yardstick that he used to help him walk. He received a box of balanced foods from our food pantry to supplement his undernourished diet. We also helped him acquire free respiratory medicine through available patient assistance programs. All of this follow-up and discharge took several staff members and a few hours before he left in the transportation we arranged for him to get home.

At Barnabas, we not only attend to the medical needs of our patients, but we also try to address any other needs we can help with to make sure our patients are taken care of not just medically, but as a whole. In doing so, we increase our task load ensuring that patients are receiving proper care. Our goal of making sure that our patients receive the help they deserve, regardless of money or status can only be accomplished by working as a team that often feels more like a family. When we Serve  together as a team we can make sure patients not only get the medical assistance they need, but also the nutrition and education they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.  I am very proud to have the experience to serve at a host site like Barnabas as their National Health Corps AmeriCorps member. This service experience truly motivates me even more to pursue medicine so I can better serve those that need it most.

This blog post was written by NHC Florida member Maria Tran.

Maria serves at Barnabas as a Care Coordinator.