Quality Care in Practice by Mireya Avila

At Maria de los Santos (MdlS), a Federally Qualified Health Clinic in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia, I serve as a care navigator and help patients utilize preventative services, namely cancer screenings. I provide education to patients on preventative screenings and refer them for mammograms and colonoscopies. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and be part of a team who’s workflow is patient-centered. By having a NHC member onsite I think Maria de los Santos has been able to ensure a high quality of care for patients.

As one of the providers recently mentioned at a company-wide meeting, when we, the staff, come into MdlS it’s just another day of work, but when a patient comes in to the clinic, it’s an event. Her point was that more often than not patients have many barriers to obtaining regular primary care, so when they manage to make an appointment and come in they have been anticipating this opportunity to speak with their provider for a long time. To be frank, it’s often difficult for them to be able to address all their pressing health concerns in one visit, let alone touch on preventative tests.

That’s where I come in. I get to work with an amazing team of providers, medical assistants, care coordinators, and supervisors to ensure patients get preventative cancer screenings done regularly. After the medical assistants triage patients, I speak with them about what preventative services they might be due for. I can provide them with referrals and education on breast, colon, and cervical cancer. Even if a patient does not have an appointment and is interested in obtaining a cancer screening, I can bring them into my office or call them to make sure they are getting the services they need. This is a great option for patients who are unable to travel to the health center or don’t have an appointment.

Maria de los Santos is located in one of Philadelphia’s biggest latinx communities and we regularly receive patients that have just moved here from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The health center works hard to provide culturally competent care, and most of the staff speak fluent Spanish. This draws both patients who have just moved to the area and patients who want to receive care where there’s no language or cultural barriers. Often when establishing care, it’s hard for the doctors to obtain medical records. I make sure no patient slips through the cracks by finding medical reports, and following up on recommendations.

Beyond making connections with people, one of my favorite parts about service is knowing the education I provide will probably be passed on to family and friends as well. It’s a humbling reminder of how meaningful my service can be when people thank me for speaking about cancer screenings. The other day, while handing out information and talking to patients about breast and colon cancer screenings, I had a woman ask to take extra information home for her friend. She told me a loved one had refused to get treatment and passed away so she was a big advocate for screenings. She hoped with the more information and handouts I gave her that she could pass it along and convince her friend to get screened.

As the NHC member at the Maria de los Santos site I feel I’ve been able to enhance the preventative medicine practice within a primary care setting. I think the care navigator position has grown to an important role in the clinic and each member that serves here continues to add to the quality of education and preventative services offered.