By: Emma Laut
Emma is from Indianapolis, IN and graduated from Marian University in 2015 where she studied Biology, Sociology, Pastoral Leadership and Psychology. This year Emma is working at Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis with Dr. Abbe, a dear friend of Loretto.
Family Care Health Center, the primary care clinic I am blessed to work at, is transitioning to utilize electronic health records. Like almost all other healthcare institutions in the United States, Family Care has spent the past few years leaping into technology in hopes that doing so will make patient records more accessible, organized, and searchable.
And in many ways I know that the technology has made work at the health center more systematized and easy to manage (and I’m thankful I do not have to lug around huge stacks of charts!). However, in my past few months at Family Care, I cannot begin to express the amount of times the technology was simply not enough to aid our community. No matter how many ways we try to reorganize the technological system, we still haven’t found a way to really convey a patient’s needs on a computer. I mean, how do you truly express what a patient needs when they do not fit into the check boxes of tests or treatment plans? Or when I look at a patient’s file, I know they are so much more than their condition or weight or race or social history, but what’s available in the file fails to truly convey their story. The technology simply cannot express personhood.
No, it’s the health care providers and nurses and others that have the privilege to take the pieces of information from the electronic chart and digital tests and data sets and apply it to the lives of the patients in our community. To me, the true care comes from the doctors who spend as much time as possible with patients (you know the whopping ten minutes they are allotted…) and from the teams of nurses and providers and social workers who huddle together to wrap their heads around how to best treat their patients. At Family Care the patients are kept in constant conversation, not in a silent electronic file.
While in-person and individual care is not unique to Family Care, I think the work of my health center is beautiful in that almost everyone is trying to give the time and conversation necessary to truly bring wellness and not simply medical relief to the patient. In a world that urges a faster pace and quicker results, these person-to-person interactions are not time efficient or able to be quantified. But I think they are what fill the gaps that technology just cannot fill and are what actually brings change in healthcare.
To me, the Loretto value of simple living is many, many things (just ask my housemates about my lack of taking selfies and turning off light habits). And how this value is being revealed to me right now, is that simple living calls me to enter into these pure interactions with my community at Family Care and in Saint Louis in general. I can only see the whole picture of a person if I let myself look up at them beyond their digital file and my watch. The challenge is that these interactions take time and a trust and patience in the slow process of relationships – which to me can be hard in an age of instant data and demand for results.
This call to genuine sharing with one another is something I’m trying to practice in all of the facets of my life currently, from my housemates to my family to the new people I meet constantly. I hope to continue to witness the examples of genuine sharing and care at my health center and to grow in presence. In closing, a stanza from a prayer by John Veltri helps me address this call: “Teach me to listen, O God, to those around me, my family, my friends, my co-workers. Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is, ‘Accept the person I am. Listen to me’”.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.