One of the challenges that many healthcare providers face today is learning to adequately provide care to a diverse set of patients. This is a problem that the hospital Health Bridges has partnered with, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC), also faces. One of the largest demographics that PVHMC serves is immigrants. Many of these immigrants are limited English proficient (LEP) patients, setting them up for confusion and frustration in a healthcare system dominated by the English language. To address this issue, Health Bridges has placed Health Advocates, such as myself, in PVHMC's ER to help uninsured LEP patients learn more about their health insurance options in their native languages.
Being a Health Advocate has been a rewarding experience. I have the opportunity to work directly with the LEP patients who speak Spanish. In particular, I help patients who are uninsured enroll for HPE, an emergency medical insurance that gives qualifying patients enough time to enroll in full coverage programs. Many of these patients do not know what options they have for health insurance. Patients are concerned about the costs of their ER visit, which adds to the stress of the medical emergency they are already facing. The service that Health Advocates provide offers a sense of relief to patients who qualify for HPE because they can focus on convalescing rather than on the financial burden they would otherwise have to confront. Thus, Health Advocates have the potential to make an already stressful experience at the hospital more bearable for patients and their family members.
In addition to helping uninsured LEP patients, as a Health Advocate we also help nurses with other small tasks around the ER such as changing beds or helping visitors find their family member's room. This has been an eye-opening experience because as Health Advocates, we are directly immersed in the ER's fast-paced environment. Health care providers have many responsibilities in the ER, but they also want to make the patients feel comfortable. With their already packed schedules, nurses and doctors cannot always afford to give each patient the attention that they would like to. That is where volunteers come in. They can provide the smaller touches to ER visits that makes patients feel welcomed at the hospital. For instance, as a Health Advocate I have been asked to show visitors to their friend's or family member's room, get water and coffee for visitors, change beds, and help patients to the bathroom. These seemingly insignificant tasks help create a friendly and encouraging environment for patients and their families alike.
So, whether Health Advocates are helping LEP patients learn about their health insurance options or bringing a cup of coffee to a father who has spent the night in vigil at the bedside of his son, Health Bridges is making a difference at PVHMC.
Joana Perdomo is from Inglewood, CA. She is currently majoring in Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. She enjoys reading, dancing, listening to music, watching movies, and sharing her love for science and history with others! She hopes to pursue a career in quantitative public health in the near future and ultimately become a physician.