Throughout the last two weeks, a majority of our mornings have been spent shadowing providers in the various clinics within the Cabin Creek and New River Health Systems. Bettina Hall, one of our group members, described this experience best; “It has been a remarkable experience. Because access to care is limited, providers have to utilize their creative and skilled efforts to offer the best and most appropriate medical care for their clients, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. I think one of the main things that has really stood out to me is the commitment and sincerity providers put into the well-being of all their patients, and its clearly evident that the patients equally value their time, and the support that they receive from the whole medical team.”
Being that we will be starting our master’s program in the fall, and a lot of us are aiming to be primary care providers, these mornings offered an exciting sneek peak into our careers. I was blessed with the opportunity to observe PAs, NPs, and MDs in action – serving their clients with the utmost compassion, perseverance, and creativity. The health care challenges that the Cabin Creek Community faces are complex; rooted in a social history of oppression and isolation. Through what amounted to hours of conversations with providers and medical assistants, nurses and aministrative staff, we discovered that the major health issues in the area were hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and depression. The vast majority of clients I saw were under an opiate contract due to the prescriptions they had for managing their chronic pain. I had conversation upon conversation with providers about how best to manage pain, and how to work with a population in which the percentage of narcotic abuse is tragically high. Both health systems are fighting this battle with perseverance. They are turning to the evidence within the literatire to offer their clients the best care possible, and to help their entire communities break free from the chains of addiction.
This is just one example of the quality of care that these clinics seek to provide. Cabin Creek Health System (CCHS) is constantly addressing the needs of their community in an innovative, honest, and team-centered manner. I was truly inspired by the unparalleled commitment to service that was exhibited by the CCHS staff. John Rice, PA.C is a prime example of this. An article about the outstanding care he give his patients was printed in the Charleston Gazette. One of their patients credited John Rice and CCHS as helping her win the fight against food, and subsequently gain back control of her health. He is committed to the health and well-being of his patients – seeing them as whole human beings worthy of respect and love. And through that he empowers them to take charge of their health and their lives. Bettina, who shadowed him for these two weeks, shared an example of the thoughtfulness and intentionality with which he approaches the relationship with his patients. He is so in-tune with his patients that he picks up the small things; nothing a patient tells him is irrelevant. A patient told him it would be their birthday the day of their appointment. So, John made him a brownie, decorated on a plate that said “Happy Birthday.” Bettina called him “a quintessential good Samaritan.” It is stories like this that truly inspire and encourage me. Providers who are working and living within their communities – serving a whole community. They are completely immersed, committed, and persevering, offering the continuity of care that is needed to effect true and sustainable change.
It was in this environment that we got to spend each morning of the past two weeks – deepening our understanding of the culture and the lives of the people, through the eyes of their providers. Dr. Dan Doyle, a committed and passionate physician who has provided over 30 years of service to both the Cabin Creek and New River clinics, penned a Golden Rule of Primary Care, which is hanging in most of the clinics buildings. I will leave you with his words, and please stay tuned for more of our journey, and how we used what we learned in the clinics, combined with our oral history training, to create a plan for effective patient communication.