As an aspiring primary care physician, I used to think I was going to “do it all.” I certainly wanted to treat my patients medically by controlling their blood pressure or prescribing them antibiotics to fight their infections. Beyond this, I hoped to counsel them on nutrition, encourage exercise, connect them to social services, ensure they made their referral appointments and so much more. I knew patients deserved to be cared for in this holistic model. The primary care providers that I have interacted with this year are determined and passionate about helping their patients. The fact is, providers often have limited time and capacity to provide these essential services alone. Fortunately, there are numerous, committed healthcare team members that do an incredible job of providing holistic care to patients.
I am proud to be one member of this healthcare team at Primary Care Health Services. We have dedicated social workers, therapists, care managers, nurses, medical assistants and office managers who work together to provide comprehensive care to our patients. My contribution is providing education on proper nutrition relevant to our patients’ chronic conditions. One way I am able to do this is by coordinating our Healthy Lifestyle Program. This program combines technology using fitness trackers and group support to encourage our patients to pursue a healthy lifestyle. We meet once a week for a group exercise class and once a month for a nutrition workshop.
My favorite part about this program is the group support the patients provide to each other. They started out as strangers in January and quickly became acquainted with each other. Now in May, they are a group of friends that show each other pictures of the recipes they tried and discuss fun places to go on walks in Pittsburgh. We said from the beginning that the goal of the program was not to lose weight, but to become more knowledgeable about ways to eat healthy and exercise. The group support that has developed amongst the participants has been essential to reaching this goal. They hold each other accountable to attend the sessions and sincerely encourage each other to achieve their individual goals. It is so fulfilling to be able to provide tools for success for these patients and see them utilize the tools to improve their health.
Now that I’m nearing the end of my AmeriCorps experience, I have been able to reflect on the many lessons I have learned this year. One major lesson that I will surely take with me to my career in medicine is how valuable a healthcare team is to serving patients. Without an AmeriCorps member at my site, the 20 patients in the Healthy Lifestyle Program would not have had the opportunity spend over 30 hours learning and practicing healthy eating and exercising. It is essential that all members of a healthcare team recognize the value each person has to improve the wellness of their patients. As a physician one day, I may not have the time and capacity to provide comprehensive care to my patients alone. I will, however, be an exemplary team player who collaborates with my healthcare colleagues to provide the best possible care to our patients.
(NPHC member, Allie Hamilton, pictured with clients from the Healthy Lifestyle Program).
This post was written by NPHC member Allie Hamilton.
Allie serves at Primary Care Health Services as a Health Educator.