As I begin to wrap up my summer internship and reflect on the work I’ve done the past few months, I think about the influence taking initiative has had on my experience at the Color of Health (COH). I am given considerable freedom in my work and have found that, especially when working independently, taking initiative can make all the difference in your experiences and the opportunities you have. In social justice work, there are constantly issues that need to be addressed and this can be extremely overwhelming. The members of COH each work on a different project and regularly have their hands full. My supervisor is the CEO of the organization, and I was continually looking for ways to help with administrative tasks. By offering to be involved in these processes, I had the opportunity to get a more comprehensive look at how nonprofits operate while also working on a project of my own. I was able to learn new skills, build upon others, and create more experiences for myself in the process. I learned that by expressing interest and taking initiative, more opportunities are likely to come your way.
One aspect I love about COH being a small nonprofit is that every program can have an impact, and I am excited to be leading the first research project the organization has conducted. I have designed a study that will allow us to examine provider prescribing habits related to HIV PrEP for Black women. While COH has multiple healthcare providers on the team and serves as a health education organization, they have not led any studies or collected data. This is something my supervisor has always been interested in and I am grateful to have this opportunity that hopefully paves the way for future studies.
During my time at COH, I have adjusted how I organize my work several times and tried to find the best method. As I am frequently switching between tasks, it is very easy to lose focus of what needs to be accomplished. I wish I had known when I started the best approach for staying organized. Through trial and error, I have determined an effective system that allows me to manage and organize all my documents, lists, and modes of communication. This has been a game-changer when it comes to productivity.
Working for a nonprofit, you learn that burnout is real, but you must stay focused on what motivates you. I have had the privilege of being a part of COH for over a year and, wow, has it been a crazy one! As we have seen from thousands of healthcare providers, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the healthcare system, and not only is COH an organization that addresses public health issues, but it also fights for racial justice. Last summer, in the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, the members of the organization shifted their energy to join their communities in fighting for racial justice. The team members were exhausted and the planning of many of our projects took a pause. Energy was low as we focused on other things. Getting started again was difficult but we reconnected later in the summer and reexamined our reasons for why we do what we do. Talking about and reflecting on our passions and motivations allowed us to resume work with a new energy and enthusiasm. While this situation was unusual, I learned early in my training that in the nonprofit world, employee burnout is real. It is difficult to avoid, but my advice is to always keep your reasons for doing this work in mind and to let that motivate you.