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Alumna Perspective: “Lessons from a community health center”

By Sarah Murawski, PA, ’17

I started my clinical year worried that I wouldn’t know how to address treatment plans, and that patients would be able to sense my inexperience as a provider. I came to Franklin, Louisiana focused on learning the medicine. What I didn’t realize was that I knew most of the medicine, but what I needed to learn was how to be a provider. The medicine is the data, the labs, vital signs, history, physical exam, following evidence-based practices and recommendations. Providers practice medicine, but they also provide a shoulder to cry on, offer advice on how to handle the many psychosocial stressors so prevalent in the area, and so much more.

The experience of spending this entire year in a community health center (CHC) within a very small town has forever changed me, both as a person and as a provider. I grew up with a privileged life, and sometimes it is very easy to assume you know what the underserved need. Coming to Franklin, I thought I knew exactly what I would bring to this community. Instead, this community gave me so much more. In learning the value in listening to my patients, I found that I was able to begin to understand the psychosocial aspects driving members of the community. After spending my clinical year in this town, I have also learned that there is immense value in living in the community that you serve. As a provider, when you live within that community, you understand what your patients go through every day; you understand those psychosocial drivers in a way that an outsider simply cannot.

As a young adult who never experienced poverty firsthand, I sometimes made judgments about the circumstances that people find themselves in. It is easy to judge when I am sitting in my home, eating a nice meal, thinking about my goals without ever believing that they are not possible. After taking the time to listen to my patients and the staff at the clinic, I’ve learned that there is so much more to their lives than my judgments could have ever taken into account. That cycle of poverty is pervasive; it seeps into every aspect of life for my patients in ways that I could never have imagined.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to spend my clinical year here. I could have never predicted how this community would change me. Franklin will always have a place in my heart. This town has given me a safe space to grow in some very uncomfortable ways. Because of the incredible people of this town, I am not worried about being a competent, compassionate, tolerant provider. These amazing people have trusted me with their stories, allowed me to practice physical exams and skills on them, and opened up to me in some of their most vulnerable moments. Any success that I have in my career will always be, in part, due to the people of Franklin, Louisiana.

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