January 7, 2011

Our New Medical Home

Today, Bread for the City welcomes the community into our expanded Northwest Center for our Grand Opening. (4pm sharp!) In anticipation, we asked our medical clinic director, Dr. Randi, to share her thoughts on the new space. (And if you haven't already, check out the CNN-produced special report on Dr. Randi and the clinic!)

Dr. Randi writes:

When I started working at Zacchaeus Free Medical Clinic (which eventually merged with its neighbor and partner organization, Bread for the City), we worked out of a basement. And you can say that we "made do" -- but of course it wasn't ideal.

In a community health clinic, space is important. It's one thing to be able to offer quality consultation and treatment to our clients, but it's also vitally important to offer it in an environment that is spacious, clean and organized. Such an environment sets a tone of mutual respect, and conveys a sense of responsibility for the health of individuals and community alike.

Our original clinic was welcoming in that it felt a bit like home -- it was crowded and it felt productive and high energy, if a little chaotic. Sometimes that heightened energy meant tempers would flare up due to frustration, the worry that you were not going to be heard. Many of our clients already live in overcrowded conditions that are stressful and at times unhealthy; they walk in to our clinic already frustrated, not feeling well, stressed -- and they would often stand right by the desk, trying to ensure that no one would forget them. So for a long time, we knew we needed more space -- and not just because we were short on exam rooms.

We serve a very heterogeneous population: babies, frail elderly, active children and adults with a vast range of health conditions. Many patients have mental illness. Some people come to us intoxicated or high. Many new immigrants speaking a variety of languages. They all share one waiting room, they all belong to this medical home.

We designed our new clinic with all this in mind. We wanted to convey a certain message about health. Here, the atmosphere is calmer, which encourages patients to think about their own responsibility in their health. The waiting room is always spacious even when each seat is filled. The children have an area that is inviting and safe -- separated but at the same time part of the whole. Each exam room provides the privacy that is appropriate. The lab is off to the side. It’s all very quiet. You can see that it is less stressful for patients.

The staff was mostly hoping for updated equipment that works as it’s supposed to. And we got that; everyone is pleased. But the real surprise was the patients’ reaction to the new space.

The patients have been watching construction all through last year, curious about what will be inside. Now that they finally can come in, they typically walk up the stairs with a look of amazement and awe. From the beginning the tone has been set. I’ve noticed that people are markedly calmer and more patient; the space makes people feel good.

“I am 50 years old and you are my first doctor that knows me," a man told me on the first day we were open. "And to see this beautiful building makes me so happy.” He has been sober for the past 8 months; he says he is tired of feeling sorry for himself and ready to go look for a job. “This is my home and I am so proud of this new space.”

I am too.

—Dr. Randi Abramson

1 comment:

Zain Gowani said...

congrats on the new grand opening!