Going Mobile: Care Navigating in Pittsburgh

Coming into this experience, I didn’t have many expectations regarding what I would gain from this service year, because this experience was unlike anything that I have done in the past. Because I had few expectations, I went into this service year open minded, which has left me open to new learning opportunities. I believe this year has given me a unique perspective on the medical field, that not many aspiring doctors have the chance to receive.

I currently serve on the mobile medical unit at Squirrel Hill Health Center (SHHC). SHHC is a federally qualified health center (FQHC), and aims to serve everyone regardless of income, status, or situation. Due to this, SHHC has a diverse patient population. I interact with patients ranging from refugees, immigrants, patients in recovery, and patients with mental health diagnoses. Becoming more culturally competent is a major skill that I have improved on during my service term. For example, I was speaking to a Turkish speaking patient about coming in for a routine medical visit. The patient explained to me that he did not want to come see the doctor because he did not feel sick. I had to be creative and work through this cultural difference.I was able to explain that it is important to seek preventative care, to reduce the risk of certain preventative diseases in the future. This experience and others like it, have given me a greater understanding of how to best interact with diverse patient populations.

Beyond cultural barriers, I have been able to get an in-depth knowledge of barriers that patients face to receiving healthcare, as well as the many factors that affect an individual’s health. I have seen patients who encounter transportation, language, and literacy barriers. Through serving at SHHC, and organizations around Pittsburgh, I have seen how housing, food sources, socioeconomic status, race, religion, and other factors impact patient’s health. Serving as a care navigator, I have had first hand experience helping patients navigate these barriers. This year has given me a unique perspective, which I may not have received this early in my life and career, had I not been part of National Health Corps. As an aspiring physician, these skills will be very beneficial.

Serving at SHHC has also reminded me of the importance of a team. The providers at SHHC go above and beyond for their patients, and without the supportive clinical staff like nurses, medical assistants, and care coordinators, a large percentage of SHHC patients would not be able to navigate the US healthcare system. Overall, I have been exposed to many new ideas and have been given insights into the patient experience, which I will carry with me throughout my career.

This post was written by NPHC member Jenny Goodlin.

Jenny serves at Squirrel Hill Health Center as a Patient Navigator.