As an undergraduate struggling to decide on a path in healthcare, I wondered if I would ever get the exposure I needed to make an informed career decision. I opportunely found Bellevue Project Healthcare, a program that gives me the unique chance to gain authentic healthcare experiences at Bellevue Hospital in NYC.
Through this program, I advocate for patients by talking with them, interpreting, making calls on their behalf, and monitoring their lengths of stays. Additionally, I have responsibilities like assisting with EKGs, making up stretchers, stocking supplies, and transporting patients. Lastly, I will soon have the chance to engage with NYC communities by organizing a community health fair, and presenting a project to NYU/Bellevue faculty.
I am assigned to random shifts at the hospital that mimic the true intensity of healthcare:
In this schedule, I have shifts in different departments within the hospital: adult emergency, social work, urgent care departments and more. Along with these clinical rotations, we also have weekly educational meetings where we learn about and discuss prevalent social and medical issues in the community.
Before starting the program, I was drawn to Bellevue’s powerful mission to “provide the highest quality of care to New York’s neediest populations and to deliver health care to every patient with dignity, cultural sensitivity and compassion, regardless of ability to pay” (https://med.nyu.edu/idevelop/resources/Mandates2012.pdf). Having worked for only two weeks, I have already come to understand the strong impact this statement has on New York communities. More than 80 percent of the patients in this hospital come from the city’s medically underserved populations, especially homeless people and prisoners. I was inspired by the fact that the health and safety of these populations always come first regardless of any other factors like being uninsured or undocumented. What truly drew me in to Bellevue Project Healthcare was that I am not only shadowing the various positions I may be interested in, but I am also gaining invaluable insight on Bellevue’s diverse and unique patient population through talking to and advocating for them.
In the few shifts I have already had, I see that even as volunteers, Project Healthcare participants have an impact. Through conversations, I have made patients much more comfortable, discovered new symptoms patients did not think were important to share with physicians, and eased tensions or misunderstandings. I learned that just acknowledgement of an issue goes a long way when it comes to advocating for patients, and that many of them just want someone to listen and validate their concerns. I feel privileged to be able to make even the slightest difference in these patients’ hospital visits by advocating for them in any way I can.
My goals in continuing this program are to begin building my healthcare career, and to develop valuable lifelong interpersonal and bedside manner skills. I hope to become well-versed in my understanding of policy as well as diversity in healthcare. Using this knowledge, I will identify areas of academic focus and tailor my curriculum to facilitate growth in my career. I believe that gaining this knowledge will reaffirm my passion for my minor of Hispanic Studies, as I will further understand the influence of cultural barriers in health. I will further deepen my understanding of the importance of making sure patients feel understood and respected. Developing these skills is the most important goal for me this summer because I strongly believe that they are crucial in healthcare, and that empathy is a critical part of healthcare as a diagnosis.