I moved from a small town in southern Indiana to Indianapolis in the fall of 2008 to start my freshman year at Butler, and instantly felt a big culture shock. As you can imagine, Indianapolis lacked the slow pace, cornfields, and hometown vibe that I had grown accustomed to during my childhood. Fast-forward 10 years later (still in Indy as a PGY-2 Pediatric resident) and I continue to be amazed at the resources that Indianapolis has to offer.
Part of the pediatrics residency at IU is designed to get the residents out of the hospital and into the community. Indy is a pretty amazing city, and it’s no surprise that the residents love to get out and explore what the has to offer. In the month that we have in each of our first and second years we are able to learn about community organizations, but I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. Indy is a large city with a lot to offer and we couldn’t possibly visit each resource available. Since I’ve lived in Indy for the past 10 years, I’ve been able to learn more about some of the smaller and newer resources and feel comfortable directing patients to their door for help.
Takeaway point 1: Learning the resources of the community is a responsibility of the physician.
One of these organizations (and one that is very special to me) is Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center located on the northeast side of the city. Gigi’s has so many services and programs to offer families and individuals with Down syndrome. I’ve been volunteering with their adult programs each month since they opened their doors a few years ago. I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve grown and how many families they’ve reached and I know that my patients are in good hands when I send them to Gigi’s.
In our residency training, we are exposed to so many wonderful organizations, but Indianapolis has so much more to offer than what can be learned in two months. This is especially true when it comes to individual diagnoses. I wouldn’t even have known about Gigi’s Playhouse if it weren’t for my experience with having a brother (Zach) with Down syndrome and my desire to stay a part of this community.
Fortunately for Indianapolis, we have several more resources for the Down syndrome community: Best Buddies, Down syndrome Indiana, and Special Olympics, just to name a few. By learning about these organizations, and the services and support they offer, we, as physicians, can better direct patients to the resources that would be best for their needs at that time.
Takeaway Point 2: Flooding patients with too many resources and no direction on how to navigate them can be a disservice to them.
Recently, a friend of mind had a baby who was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth. In talking to her, it seemed as though the abundance of resources that had been given to her at the time of diagnosis was too overwhelming to manage, especially when faced with the burden of a new and unexpected diagnosis. She reached out to me with questions about my life as a sister to Zach, which I was more than happy to share. I know my experience in volunteering for these organizations and seeing the impact that they have on families in the community would make a huge difference in their life. With my background as a pediatric resident and knowledge of the organizations in the community, I was able to direct them to the most helpful organization for their needs at that time.
Patients and families with a new diagnosis and/or special healthcare needs need access to resources, but they also need more information than just the names of places to go and call. They need specific direction to right services for their needs at that moment. Many families with a new diagnosis are in crisis/survival mode. Their ability to sort through a bunch of resources that have been thrown at them are limited and it leads them to push that information to the side in favor of just surviving and processing their new reality. If we, as physicians, could direct patients to the right resources for that critical time, we would make a huge impact in a time of great need for them. Isn’t this what we all strive to to?!
Takeaway Point 3: If you are unsure of the services offered by an organization, just call!
One recurring theme that we hear at each organization that we visit on the community pediatrics rotation is “if you have questions or think I can help you in any way, just call.” The individuals that we meet are always offering us their contact information and encouraging us to let them know if we have questions regarding what services and resources they can offer our patients and the people of Indianapolis. They have been incredibly welcoming and more than willing to teach us about what they do.
Final Takeaway: If you are moving or are new to a city, take the time to learn some key resources that are in that community and vet them out. Call and see what they can (or can’t) do for your patient. The initial time investment will save you time in the long run since you know that you’ve sent the patient to the best place to meet their needs. I’ve seen firsthand how thankful patients are when I can direct them to a resource that can help other/non-medical aspects of their lives or help them to navigate a difficult diagnosis or circumstance.
Physicians can improve the lives of their patients better, one community resource at a time!