Hope for Health
By: Amy Hinman
In a small renovated bathroom-turned-nurses station, still new with the smell of polyester and fresh paint, nurse Brooke flips through a pamphlet on birth control options. She is sitting next to an HQ, member, who is giggling wildly.
“What’s birth control?” she asks Brooke, cheerfully sarcastic. Brooke laughs back, knowing they’ve talked birth control before.
“Let’s read this pamphlet and find out!”
They lean closer to each other, as Brooke flips through the pages. I snap a few pictures; the nurses station is brand new, and we’re taking photos of the space in “use.”
Before the nurses station, nurse Brooke and other volunteer nurses at HQ met in whatever space they could find, usually an unused office. While functional, those spaces weren’t optimal. We began to dream of a space that did more than suffice, but would equip our team of nurses to provide the highest quality care possible in the space.
Most of this care centered around first aid, pregnancy testing, and basic health education. Our nurses have bandaged cuts, determined sprains, diagnosed poison ivy, and more. The procedures are often simple, but it’s the relationships they build with members that lay the foundation for trusting relationships with doctors and nurses in the future.
Youth experiencing unsafe/unstable housing can struggle to access health care for a whole host of reasons. They feel embarrassment and shame around medical professionals, they lack healthcare or don’t know what kind of health care they have, or medical services are simply inaccessible.
Without care, minor health issues worsen. Prenatal care gets put off or ignored. And the lack of trust and access that young people face makes receiving healthcare as an adult unlikely. Having nurses accessible during drop-in is critical–when members are at HQ, they can throw in a load of laundry, grab some lunch, and quick ask the nurse if this rash is poison ivy or something else.
Our goal is not to replace health clinics or hospitals, but to provide a space where youth can get their health needs met in a way that feels as safe and familiar as drop-in, but this time, with medical grade equipment. We’re fortunate, because there are others in our community that believe in spaces that work for people. Through the support of HermanMiller Cares, HermanMiller Health Care, and MarxModa, the design, medical-grade products, and installation were realized at HQ.
And these items are critical, not just for high-quality care, but for curating spaces that communicate that we mean business. Everything in the nurses station–from the recently-installed cabinets, to the tin of swabs on the counter–communicates to youth that this is a place they can trust.
As we finish our photo shoot, nurse Brooke puts her things away, but the member hangs back as Brooke prepares to depart. She whispers in my ear, “Is she going to be at drop-in today?” I shake my head no.
“Oh.” Her face falls.
“I think a different nurse will be though, is that ok? Do you need to quick ask Brooke something now?”
“No,” she says, looking relieved. “I can wait ‘til drop-in.” She eyes the little room and its new cushioned bench, delicate medical instruments, and small display of information packets. I see optimism in her face as she examines these new things that promise her care and peace of mind. Things that promise her hope.