I knew when applying to the program that my time with NHC was finite, but the other day I was taken by surprise when I looked at the calendar and saw that I was halfway through with my service term. Ten and a half months may not seem like a long time, but I already know that this is going to be a formative experience for me. I’ve been reflecting on the first half of my service term, and I surprised myself when I thought about what I’ve done and how it has affected me. A lot has been packed into these first 5 months.
Some of the things I’ve done: visited a federal courthouse, enrolled myself in SNAP, presented on the Affordable Care Act to healthcare providers, learned the ins and out of public benefits, created 5 handouts on healthcare access, attended a seminar on immigrant healthcare, visited clinics on the South and West sides of Chicago, enrolled clients in Medicaid, made mashed potatoes for NHC Friendsgiving, waited on hold for 47 minutes with the Illinois Department of Human Services, spent MLK day painting a high school, and learned about the history of brooms.
(That last one happened when we were volunteering one Saturday at a community farm event. Anyway…)
There have been ups and downs through this first half of my service term, and they are often two sides of the same issue. I’ve learned a lot about health care access, and the frustrations of navigating our complicated system. I’ve helped clients complete paperwork for Medicaid that has allowed them to see a doctor for the first time in months--but this is the same system that shut them out of care for not filling out that paperwork on time. I’ve been able to correct client information and get them the necessary paperwork to seek care, but I had to wait on hold for 47 minutes to do so. Yes, I counted.
Looking back, I can see the invaluable skills and knowledge I’ve gained over the first half of my service term. I can see that the rest of the Corps has as well. None of the 19 other people in the corps are the same as when we first met in an office in Chicago one morning in August. Our struggles and successes have affected our outlook on service, health, and our place in a wide and ever-evolving system.
Looking forward, I’m excited to see what opportunities the second half of my service term has in store, and where this will lead me after my term of service is up in July.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2016-17 member Nate Muckley.
Nate is the Medicaid Managed Care Outreach Coordinator at Legal Council for Health Justice.