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Community-Clinical Connections: Stephanie’s Perspective

By The PHCD Team   |   October 26, 2016


Twice a year, PHCD Community Health team hosts student interns from Dominican University of California. These students are smart, hard working, and passionate about improving health. Moreover, while most have an interest in the clinical side of health care, they're also interested in wellness and prevention efforts that occur outside the walls of a hospital. Our interns have the opportunity to merge their medical knowledge with our community health efforts, and in doing, gain a more nuanced understanding of the many ways good health can be achieved. 

For the the past four months, we've hosted the fantastic Stephanie Abrenica. A social media whiz and active member of Dominican's Kapamilya Club, Stephanie is finishing up her final year of nursing school. During her time with us, Stephanie  had chance to work on some great projects and had these thoughts to share with all of us:

This fall semester, I was given the opportunity to explore aspects of community health by interning at the Petaluma Health Care District (PHCD) as part of my clinical rotation. If you asked all my classmates about what they do at their community health clinicals, you’d probably hear, “Oh I do home visits all over the place and help out all these people in the community”. If you were to ask my what I do at my community health clinicals, it would be a little different.

Here at PHCD, I have been able to take part in many big meetings, especially those of the Community Health Initiative of the Petaluma Area (CHIPA) that includes diverse groups working together towards the common goal of improving the well-being of the community. It was hopeful to see all the different people from the community such as doctors, parents, school board officials, city officials, and so much more come together and see how each person can be part of the solution. One thing I really appreciated about attending these meetings was that I really felt that my thoughts mattered. Everyone that participates in these meetings is so welcoming and open-minded to different ideas, which makes this such a safe environment to brainstorm solutions.

Being part of such a large group of people offering different perspectives into the many issues that needs to be resolved in the community has been an eye-opening experience. As a student that has mostly done clinical work in hospitals, all of the data analysis and problem solving that is done for the community is something that is often overlooked. Patient care within the hospital normally pertains to what is happening during the stay and since my clinicals are not very long, I rarely get to see the long-term outcome for the patients I see. Do they stay well? Do they have the proper resources and basic needs when they get home? Participating in these meetings has given me an optimistic outlook on how health care is evolving and has answered my questions.

One major topic of discussion I got to be a part of was ranking and prioritizing the many needs facing residents using a Community Health Needs Assessment. I learned so much about the community! Mental health ended up ranking number one which I find so great because it is easily pushed aside. Also interesting was that one of the major needs from both this and a previous Needs Assessment – dental health - did not get much attention this time around, despite decay being the number reason why children miss school.

Overall, I truly enjoyed my experience here at PHCD. Everyone here at was so kind and passionate about the work that they do, especially my preceptor, Erin Hawkins. I learned about the many challenges and obstacles that could come across when trying to prioritize the needs of the community. All of the activities and meetings have opened my mind to a new kind of critical thinking that goes beyond the quality of a patient’s stay in the hospital, but all factors that go into a person or a community’s health overall.

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