One of the interactive parts of my medical school is the service learning aspect. By the end of 4th year, each student is required to complete 40 hours of service learning. This roughly works out to 1 hour/month until graduation. Service Learning. Starting here, I would have thrown community service and service learning under the same category, with the exception of service learning having a more educational ring.
The big difference…
Community service emphasizes service. Service learning emphasizes learning. Both have equal levels of service to the community but service learning includes a reflection and application aspect to the service.
My service learning is called Successful Aging in Place. The premise of the service learning is to assist elderly individuals in their pursuit for independent living. Most of our clients reside in community housing covered through Section 8. A pair of medical students reach out to an interested client and build a relationship. This is primarily done through taking a social history, but minimizing equal sharing. It is a hard balance to ask a lot of questions about an individual without reciprocating something as well. How does he/she like their living situation? What type of social support is present? How do you enjoy spending your day? What was your childhood like?
After the social history, the pair of medical students schedule another meeting with the client, ideally in their home. We are able to gain a better perspective on the living situation – how feasible is home-cooked meals, how is the lighting, do the windows open to fresh air… etc. It is a more holistic understanding of the client. We gather this information and further understand the medical background of the client. We understand what he/she wants and the medical student pair works with community programs to facilitate independent living. Reduced fare for buses. Information about programs that deliver fresh produce. The list goes on.
So today, I spoke in front of a new group of potential clients that my service learning can possibly work with. While we are serving these individuals, the medical students learn so much as well. We learn the complexities of trying to manage care in the home setting. The complications of transportation to just see the doctor. How the cost and distance from fresh produce can complicate physician diet recommendations. All these aspects of the patient need to be appreciated when the physician is working with the patient. Treating depression with medication might be a reflexive style of medicine, but understanding the triggers that are leading to the depression and trying to fix them from an upstream approach might end up going further in regards to the patients quality of life.
I am excited to see what new opportunities are out there with these clients! More updates will follow.
As always: here is a song that captures my excitement for the continued journey with Successful Aging in Place!