Bellevue Hospital, famously known for its psychiatric ward and colloquially termed as the “loony-bin” by many New York city residents, has an interesting and complicated story. Commonly used in popular culture to derive eerie and gothic backdrops such as in The Godfather, Bellevue has a number of misconceptions surrounding it. Inextricably linked with New York’s history, Bellevue has been a pioneer in the medical field and has served the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. It has been home to a number of medical firsts and has trained physicians from Columbia Medical School to NYU Langone. Bellevue has impacted countless lives from immigrant families to patients who were turned away by other hospitals. Guided by its “no one be turned away” philosophy, Bellevue has been a haven to some of the most critical patients in New York. For me, Bellevue is home to Project Healthcare.
Project Healthcare provides a comprehensive look at emergency medicine to expose non-medical students to an immersive clinical setting. The program’s biggest goal is to empower students to make well-informed decisions regarding their career. Furthermore, the program aims to curate future healthcare professionals who are well versed in the social determinants of health in order to effectively treat and prevent large-scale health issues. The Bellevue Emergency Department serves a unique and underserved population in Manhattan to reduce healthcare disparities in the state. The hospital treats the highest percentage of incarcerated, impoverished, homeless, and minority individuals each year, nearly 80% of the state’s underserved population.
Project Healthcare interns adhere to a strict schedule of clinical rotations throughout various departments in the hospital. Our primary responsibilities lie in the Emergency Room where we assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers with tasks such as EKGs, listening to patients needs and concerns, and monitoring the quality of their stay in the hospital. One shift in the ER, a patient came in with his thumb partially amputated as a result of an on-site construction accident. I spent the majority of this shift speaking to him about his children, tattoos and favorite netflix TV shows to distract him from the hand surgeon suturing his thumb back together. Though the patient was in a great deal of pain, gentle reminders to breathe and the distraction of our conversation improved his experience, as well as aided the physician in his primary goal. Experiences like these have helped me further my personal goal of refining my interpersonal skills in highly stressful situations.
In July, Project Healthcare interns will host a community health fair. My health fair topic is aimed at increasing awareness of Breast and Cervical cancer in order to educate the community on the importance of self-examination, early screenings and yearly physicals. My group has adopted a holistic approach to our topic and will provide resources for nutritious food and clinics that can be utilized by the unique patient population at Bellevue. The hope for the annual health fair is to empower underserved patients to make their health a priority and to bridge barriers in accessing health care services.
Every Tuesday, I survey a variety of Public Health topics as part of a social medicine course. The lecture series analyzes a variety of real-life situations seen in EDs all over the country to determine the sociological reasons for why they could have arisen. Weekly meetings and discussing case-studies is inherent to the healthcare field. The Social Emergency Medicine course is led by a variety of guest speakers from NYU and Bellevue faculty, staff, administrators, residents and medical students. These meetings are one of my favorite parts of this program and I strongly believe more healthcare providers should become versed in Public Health topics in order to improve the United States’ healthcare system as a whole. For example, the healthcare system has one of the largest impacts on our environment. By simply educating providers and administrators on the impact of their practices, cognizant steps can be taken to reduce waste and emissions in order to improve the quality of life for millions of people.
I frequently think about the kind of healthcare provider I want to be. Developing cultural competency is of the utmost importance to me. I want to be able to provide unbiased and accurate care to patients of all backgrounds and identities. Knowing where a patient comes from is incredibly important for addressing their health concerns and bettering their quality of life on a larger scale. Through my experiences in Bellevue’s ED, it is clear to my peers and me how health is socially constructed beyond simple biological factors.
My participation in this program has exposed me to populations that have been systematically neglected and fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system. My hope is to learn how to build bridges with this population and learn how to proactively create an inclusive and accessible environment for patients of all identities. This optimism is shared with my Project Healthcare peers, who are just a subset of the future healthcare providers. Developing cultural competency and learning how to sensitively interact with patients who come from different backgrounds early on is essential for breaking the cycle of systemically neglectful care that has been impervious to our system from the get-go.
Similar to the breaking down the misconceptions surrounding Bellevue Hospital, it is important to realize when stereotypes and misnomers are at play during patient care. Often times, there is more to the story than the first glance. Simple courtesies and an effort to get to know a patient’s personal history does wonders for their care and experience as a whole. Recognizing when unjustified biases are at play will bring the medical community closer to addressing health inequity and strengthening ties with their patients—something I encounter nearly everyday in my position at Bellevue.