“I am sorry sir; unfortunately you and your family are not eligible for health coverage at this time.” Those were the words that crushed me to tell patients on a few cases during my service year as a Health and Benefits Advocate. Not having a solution is the hardest part. However, there are always other resources available to patients, like AFAHO (African Family Health Organization) which is for patients who have recently come to the United States and are not immediately eligible for health insurance. National Health Corps has taught me that there are always ways to connect with others to help patients and yourself.
My service year has been bittersweet. I have enjoyed advocating for patients which has brought me out of my comfort zone. Facilitating meetings with colleagues that are twice my age has been empowering. The most humbling of all is assisting patients whose tough reality reminds me that the small stipend I live on is only temporary. Volunteerism is definitely a privilege; many do not have an option to take a year to volunteer. Volunteering implies that you are in state in which you can give to others without needing anything in return for your service.
What makes my experience bittersweet is that I entered my year with plans to do something I had always envisioned yet I became exposed to a new profession, social services, and immediately began to question: is what I wanted going to be fulfilling? I became anxious, stressed, and discouraged at the thought of changing my career plans, but sometimes creating your own path is a better solution. I do not regret my choice to delay graduate school to pursue another avenue and hone in on what I am truly passionate about. Sitting in my tiny office listening to patients share their life stories, confide in me with some of their most personal experiences, and come to me for emotional support and advice is something that I value; I want to have that experience in the career that I choose to pursue. These experiences are what has made my service term really sweet. The training that I have received such as motivational interviewing, the Sanctuary Model of trauma informed care, mental health first aid, and mindfulness stress reduction have been beneficial to my professional growth this year. These skills have allowed for me to better serve patients and become more aware of the best methods to take care of myself when under stress. With nearly 1700 hours of service recorded, I think it is safe to say service is within me, it runs through my veins.