Emily Sanders is a ’21-22 Jesuit Volunteer living in Seattle. Emily serves as the Community Support Specialist at Downtown Emergencies Services Center (DESC).
Just like this year of service, this story is made of many little moments of transformation, reconsideration, and the ministry of presence. While serving as a care coordination registered nurse at Downtown Emergency Service Center in Seattle, WA, I have been challenged to redefine my understanding of a “success story.” I serve with clients who have persistent mental illness, co-occurring substance use, and a history of being previously homeless. Throughout nursing school and within the hospital systems I have worked in prior, I was told definitions of health, wellness, and success in terms of compliance, positive outcomes, and data markers. While these are extremely valuable, this year has taught me that a “success story” cannot simply be defined by the quantitative data.
When I think of a story from my time this year as a JV with DESC, I think of many individual moments with clients, and many small victories, in combination with all the “less successful” stories in between. When I picture this, I think of the time a client got connected to a primary care doctor with someone to sit with them, after years of being too scared to return due to past trauma they had endured. I think of the day that I accompanied a client to the emergency department because being alone for that long of a period was the barrier to receiving healthcare. I think of the moments that I was able to talk through medication and treatment options with clients and their providers, allowing each client to utilize their autonomy and pick the best option for themselves, rather than just doing what was recommended. I think of a client who became motivated in starting their diabetes management because we talked through how this disease progression could affect their love for creating artwork. To me, what makes these stories great is knowing that these moments are monumental for the clients that are impacted, moments that center these individuals’ autonomy and dignity, something that they often do not receive.
Watch the video below to hear more from Emily and other Jesuit Volunteers serving in public health.
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