The following are remarks given by one of BHCHP’s nurses, Fay Khudairi at our Fall Soiree for Emerging Leaders. The remarks have been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.
My name is Fay Khudairi, I am a nurse with BHCHP at the 112 Southampton Street clinic site. We’re a small, tight-knit staff working in a 500-bed men’s shelter. When you’re enclosed for 14 hours in a three-and-a-half room office, you bond quickly. Between walk-in sick visits, primary care and responding to emergencies, we rely on each other to adapt to the changing needs of the shelter population.
As some of you may have heard on the news, over the summer we experienced unprecedented needs from an uptick of crises in the area. Going from responding to one emergency a week, to running out to 94 overdoses in one month, we had to lean on each other in and outside of the organization. We drew strength from the steady support of our partners, and for the additional volunteers and donations that poured in so we could keep services running during contentious times.
BHCHP and its partners have always proactively spoken out to protect the work we do through collaboration, listening to our staff and patients, and educating the public to rise above stigma. Each one of us has our own reason why we care about this work and why we spread the word so earnestly.
For me, it comes in moments of hope. Two months ago I responded to an unconscious woman on Atkinson Street and then saw her two weeks later at Transitions (a treatment center which we staff) getting the help she needed for her recovery. Talking to her then reminded me of the importance of each interaction I have with guests. We truly never know when a connection will open and we can offer some small amount of help.
To do this work skillfully we must meet people where they are. I’ve found that for many guests that come in, their health isn’t always the most pressing concern. They have other life challenges, which are vying for priority. So often it’s a matter of addressing the external barriers so we can then offer the medical help they need. What resources does this person need to feel safe enough to get help? And, How will my own perspective and experiences impact how I treat this patient, and how can I show up as the best provider I can be for them?
Some guests will deny needing medical help, despite my probing, but they’ll come in faithfully every day for cough drops and reliable connection. Blue or red? I’ll ask from behind the glass before grabbing a handful and opening the door.
These interactions between the guest and I have nothing to do with having a sore throat. More often than not, cough drops are just the gateway toward creating a trusting rapport and gaining access to help them with their other medical needs.
Where Barbara McInnis and Dr. Jim O’Connell had foot care in the early days of our program, 112 Southampton has cough drops.
After the summer we had, we’ve come back to a new normal. We bounced back because Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, like its patients, is resilient. We’re like a woven finger trap, the more we are pulled and challenged, the more secure the fabric of this program becomes.