Health Center News

Workforce Wellness and Building Community

By Grace Wang, MD, MPH

My calendar tells me that its day 100 of a journey on a road that doesn’t appear on any map. Sometimes I think I see a familiar landmark but upon closer scrutiny, I find that the familiar has changed to something that is unrecognizable. The first 100 days is often used as a point in time to reflect on accomplishments but I would prefer to use this time to think about what to do next. 

I intend to continue on this journey and I am very grateful for the companionship and community of trusted compassionate health center colleagues. The road ahead will continue to have its challenges, and at times the prospect seems daunting, but I am confident the tools we already have in our Community Health Center movement toolbox to mobilize and build community will continue to serve us well.

As a health center clinician, I also know that the health and well-being of my health center colleagues and our care teams are the cornerstone of service delivery.  We’re accustomed to working hard as evidenced by our efforts to carry on despite staff furloughs and other related interventions in response to recent financial shortfalls.  I worry that this isn’t sustainable especially when there are disconnects between intent and impact.  For example, most of my patient interactions require interpretation, but it doesn’t add up when the annualized cost for contracted interpreter services far exceeds the salary of my interpreter colleagues who have been furloughed.  Additional time is needed to deal with the administrative burden of contracted interpreter services and the only options are to spend less time with the patient or run behind schedule.  

In these times of new and unprecedented challenges, it’s great to see that the Community Health Center movement toolbox has resources with a special focus on health center workforce in wellness. ASU Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research, in collaboration with NACHC and with consultation from national experts recently released “Team Care Connections – Conversations About Moral Distress and Moral Injury.” This digital magazine is a new addition to the Community Health Center movement toolbox and a versatile platform for learning and action to build community. The digital magazine provides new methods and approaches for building a community that are especially relevant for Community Health Center teams during these challenging times. I also encourage you to listen to the upcoming “Taking Care of the Compassionate Care Team: Conversations About Moral Resilience and Moral Distress” Webinar on June 23, 2020. 

Now more than ever our country needs a strong Community Health Center movement and the communities we build united in our shared passions for justice and equity.

Dr. Wang is a health center clinician. The views expressed in this op-ed are her own.