Part 2: Today I’m interviewing my site supervisor, Valerie Eldridge-Bratsch, Healthy Start program manager at the Florida Department of Health in Nassau County. Valerie was an NHC Florida member in 2012-2013 and now oversees the Healthy Start program. We will be discussing how NHC AmeriCorps members benefit the community.
How do you feel NHC members contribute to the community?
NHC members are instrumental to the communities that they serve because they bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and dedication to some very difficult roles. Public health issues are incredibly expansive in ways that the general public might not realize, so having a group of committed, dedicated and well-trained individuals who are excited about eliminating disparities is just wonderful. Because NHC is training our next generation of public health professionals and medical professionals, it enables members to grow while utilizing the skill sets and ideas they already have. Sometimes, after you’ve been working in a profession for a number of years you get used to how things are always done or you become jaded in regard to some of the problems in the community, so having a fresh set of ideas and eyes to look at the problem and people who are committed to trying to solve those problems can help lift everyone else out of that state of being jaded and reinvigorate the workforce... Remember that all people are from different walks of life and that their experiences can impact their actions--keeping that in mind makes the world a little better.
Can you give a specific example in which you saw an NHC member help a client/a co-worker?
One thing that I think this year that has been wonderful is the way in which [our AmeriCorps member this year, Nathan], has been able to help Spanish speaking clients. A lot of time it can be uncomfortable to use an over-the-phone translator and the clients really react positively to having someone that can speak Spanish with them. That’s a skill set that our team has lacked, and that has been very helpful in engaging clients, helping them feel comfortable and helping them to receive the information that they need. So, that’s been one thing that’s been really exciting this year. AmeriCorps members have always gone above and beyond. Brianna Bell, who was with us prior, she was working on smoking cessation and she would buy small little encouragement items for clients like adult coloring books or journals. She took it on herself to provide positive reinforcements for clients. I can think of lots of examples but those are two that have been particularly helpful.
What qualities do you feel help make an NHC member particularly successful and helpful?
In general, a willingness to learn, creativity and flexibility. I think a member who is open to new experiences but also reevaluating some personal biases or presumptions is really important because, depending on your previous experience, you may be going through some really new experiences that can bring light to preconceived ideas. It really helps to realize that every person has their own story, so being open to meeting new types of people and putting that relationship first can bring a lot of enlightenment to members. Also, the member’s willingness to be dedicated to the service and be motivated by the service. It can be easy to get burnt out or get stuck in the trap of thinking “Why am I doing all this work for little to no pay?” It can be easy to get sucked into that and feel unappreciated. But instead if you’re motivated by the mission, dedicated to the service, and reminding others of that, can bring a lot more positivity to the experience instead of being swept away by the terrible financials of it.
What do you feel hinders members’ success/ability to make an impact?
From personal experience I can say that being concerned with making a visible or measurable impact. Our program director helped see that you are planting seeds and that you may not see the impact of it, but you have to trust that the process you are going through can still be helpful even if you don’t get to see the end results or outcomes. Going through that helped me to be comfortable with that fact. The lack of instant gratification or immediate results can be difficult depending on personality. Burnout is a definite possibility because you are dedicating so much time to service. Not having a self-care plan can be detrimental; members should realize that, although you are dedicated to the service and motivated by it, there is still a fine line where you have to take care of yourself or else you can’t take care of others. Not taking advantage of all the experiences and professional development that you could. And just remembering that it’s transition time, it won’t last forever. You won’t always have time to take whatever trainings you want…or just to reflect on your life like that.
Anything you would like to add?
I believe in the value of NHC Florida and would like to see that become more of a recognizable group within north Florida because of all the wonderful service and performance measures that they complete so I would like more people to recognize that that’s happen so they themselves can recognize the impact members have.
Healthy Start (FDOH Nassau): http://nassau.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutri...
Healthy Start (Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition):
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Nathan Liu.
Nathan serves at FDOH In Nassau County as a Care Coordinator.