It’s easy to forget the difference I’m making in my service term. As a Patient Advocate at a city health center, my role is to help uninsured patients receive the prescription medications they need for free or at a low cost. Much of this mission comes down to everyday routines: commuting to my health center, organizing my office, placing refills, checking on applications, calling patients to pick up their medication. By this point in my service term, I often lose sight of how my efforts add up to make a major difference for my patients.
A few weeks ago, a patient was referred to my office to apply to receive her prescription medication for free. The patient was emotional when I spoke with her. She explained that she is uninsured, low-income, and getting divorced, and now she has this health problem to worry about. I tried to ease her stress in the small way I could by actively listening to her concerns and guiding her through the application process. We completed the application together, I submitted it to the pharmaceutical company, and the patient was approved a few weeks later. Her medication shipped to the health center and she picked it up that same day.
Out of curiosity, Teja, another NHC member who serves as a Patient Advocate at my health center, looked up the cost of the medication. The 12-week supply that I had just dispensed to the patient has a sticker price of $75,000! There’s no way the patient could have afforded the medication on her own. The assistance I had provided her seemed routine to me - meeting with patients, following up on applications, and dispensing medications are all part of my daily process - but it resulted in this patient receiving treatment she greatly needed.
Although I can’t single-handedly fix the brokenness of bloated healthcare costs, nor can I assist my patient with all of the challenges she’s facing, I had the honor of being with her during a vulnerable moment and helping her in a small, yet meaningful way. I was able to help her cross one item off of her long list of things to worry about. That’s the magic of service: the little, everyday moments in which I have the privilege of helping people feel relieved, listened to, and cared for.