During my second week of Health Corps service, I found myself hitting the ground running, becoming immersed in the basics of home visiting. My site supervisor Sharon and I had just finished a visit with an overwhelmed, young mother of six kids with special needs. The newest addition to the family, a baby girl, had been having difficulty eating due to painful regurgitation. Her mother had spent the majority of our visit expressing to us her frustration with a doctor who wouldn’t listen to her when she said her daughter was in pain.

As we left the house, Sharon provided me with simple, yet essential advice: Listen to your patients.

These four words have served me well over the course of my service year. As a case manager, I am welcomed into the homes of people who are often voiceless in the face of greater systems: hospitals, welfare, insurance, school. I have the unique position of being independent of these; I am there to support and advocate for them as they gain confidence in their ability to take on the world. I am often the one person in their lives who will just sit, listen, and help as they try to make sense of their situations.

My experiences as an advocate, working with families both at home and in the community, will undoubtedly prove invaluable as I pursue a career as a physician. I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is for families to get overlooked, usually because they are not confident speaking up for themselves. I’ve seen how, when dealing with health care, we are not just the diseases or conditions we have, but rather a product of our environment and upbringing, both of which inform how we handle treatment. I’ve seen how it takes patience and understanding to reach the next level of partnership with my clients, the level where the underlying worries and motivations come to surface. These are all lessons I will carry with me when I start my medical school path in August.

I will listen.

Name: Claire Hartung
Position: Community Health Outreach Associate, La Salle Neighborhood Nursing Center
Degree: French and Francophone Studies, Carleton College ‘11
Why did you join the health corps: As a future physician, I wanted to gain experience in public health while serving my community.
Favorite thing about Philly: The music scene, and the food!

Claire blog pic