By Merette Khalil
Over this past year, I have spent my days at the Family Health and Birth Center working as the Patient Advocate. While this position is a catch-all, entailing lots of “as assigned or as needed” support and liaising between our patients and providers, I spend many hours every day troubleshooting issues, related to insurance and medication coverage, to ensure that patients receive their medications. While there is a certain thrill when these small battles are won, this type of advocacy work is exhausting: Spending hours on the phone each day between pharmacies and insurance companies, listening to patients describe endless ways a simple transaction (picking up medications) failed, trying to come up with creative solutions and engaging all parties in the process to ensure success. Every day I am at work, I am reminded and confronted by the extent to which the US Health Care System is broken, prioritizing profits over people, and disregarding the higher-risk, low-income, complicated-case and multi-barriers-to-wellness families. However, I am also encouraged and inspired, daily, by the work my colleagues do to justly, patiently, and compassionately serve and support our patients in the face of such stark and ubiquitous opposition.
Over the last couple of months, I have caught myself running on empty- I was trying to channel energy, that I did not have, towards alleviating tensions and “putting out fires” in my community at work, in my home in DC, to my chosen family in Saint Louis, and to my family abroad- while also trying to recover from a bad case of compassion fatigue. Needless to say- operating from such deep levels of exhaustion did not allow me to be present to any of these aspects of myself, my friends, or my work, which is a recipe for disaster. In reflecting on the above, and discussing motivation and compassion fatigue with some of the legacy-providers at the clinic (who have served through Community of Hope for almost two decades), I was reassured in my feelings of emptiness and encouraged to practice self-care. I wanted to share some of the ingredients I gathered for a recipe for recovery from their wisdom and my trial-and-error over the last weeks.
A Recipe for Recovery for the Tired Advocate:
In closing, I want to share one of my favorite images that remind me of nature’s beautiful wisdom about life and recovery; so, next time you look at a tree, remember the recipe for recovery!
Merette Khalil is from Cairo, Egypt and graduated in 2016 from St. Louis University with a degree in Public Health, Business Management, International Studies and Local/Global Social Justice Studies. This year Merette is working at the Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center as a patient advocate for women and families in the DC-area.
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