Vicky Pittman, PA-C. Hippo Education
Tens of millions of people in the United States have trouble accessing the healthcare they need. Whether for lack of housing, insurance, or transportation or because of language and literacy barriers, there are so many reasons why people who need medical care may not be able to reach us. Or when they do, we may not always know how to help. As front-line clinicians, we can play a role in helping our vulnerable community members. This is especially true for those of us working in Urgent Care.
Urgent Care is the safety net for patients in our communities. As an industry, we are poised to help creatively and compassionately provide access to care for all patients, including the most vulnerable. Here’s what we can do on our next shift to provide care to all patients, especially the underserved.
Maintain a trauma-informed approach to care.
Trauma is universal and happens on individual and collective levels. Some trauma may be obvious (like the physical injury of an assault), and others less so, but just as impactful. For example, take Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs). Over 60% of adults in the US report at least one ACE, which has been shown to impact long-term health (e.g., increased rates of heart disease, cancer, substance use disorder, and psychiatric illness). Approaching encounters with this in mind is essential to delivering effective care.
Be willing to ask questions and improvise.
Urgent Care clinicians are masters at learning to work with limited resources. For the underserved patients, it’s even more important to be adaptable. Ask questions and involve the patient in the treatment plan process. For example, this may look like administering intramuscular corticosteroids instead of prescribing steroids if there is concern about the ability to afford medications. Or for those with food insecurity, do you need to adjust your dosing regimen for a medication that is to be taken with food based on when the patient will be able to eat? Creativity and adaptability in your care translates to better patient experiences and outcomes.
Remember that treatment isn’t always a prescription.
For underserved patients, key aspects of a treatment plan may include helping to meet their basic needs. This may look like keeping a stock of basic necessities like socks, wound care kits, or hygiene kits. Clinics can create and distribute a community resource list with information on food, housing, and financial assistance. At the heart of medicine is a love for humanity, so let’s expand our thinking on how we can put that into practice.