For Safie, a nurse at Commonwealth Care Alliance, the most challenging part of giving care to her patients is not necessarily a health issue – it’s poverty.
This, among other socioeconomic factors facing patients in western Massachusetts, can make it difficult for patients to follow a strict health regimen. The lack of access to healthy meals and dependable transportation, combined with the inability to get outdoor exercise in unsafe neighborhoods, often leads to worsening health and behavioral issues.
Programs like Commonwealth Care Alliance allow opportunities for the patients to overcome these obstacles with the help of their caregivers.
“If someone has difficulty with accessing quality food,” Safie says, “CCA can help by providing rides to the grocery store.” The organization also offers transportation to medical appointments and an adult day program where the patients can socialize with other people facing similar obstacles.
Safie has developed a strategy, rooted in flexibility, which allows for optimal care to be given to the patients who face these challenges.
“I don’t go into the home dictating what I want to do,” she says. “I ask what their priorities are and what they want to do. If a patient wants to clean out a closet, but you need to talk to them about diabetes, you won’t be able to do so until you discuss cleaning the closet.”
Patient stories like this have been common throughout Safie’s time at CCA in Holyoke. “Poverty is a big factor in how patients are able to care for themselves and where that care falls in the larger spectrum of their basic needs,” she says. “This is where CCA comes in. We work to remove these barriers – like access to food, housing and transportation – and meet their health needs.”
When Safie came to the United States from Sierra Leone in 1990, she got a job as a certified nursing assistant that worked well with her first priority of raising her children. Since then, Safie has spent more than two decades in the field and the last five years at CCA. Her tenure at CCA has allowed her the benefit of creating long-term relationships with patients that ultimately lead to better, more effective care. “You know the person and their family inside and out,” Safie says. “I am a liaison between the patient and their primary care provider. I also try to foster their independence and encourage them to take part in their own care.”
Eventually, she hopes to retire and return to Sierra Leone and use her skills to help the people there.
Safie notes that advancing technology is imperative toward taking care of patients, both in the United States and abroad. New technology has made it easier for providers to share more information and provide better continuity of care. Additionally, the nursing profession is expanding rapidly as new opportunities become available throughout the field. With the realization that nurses’ roles in healthcare are critical to effective care, more specialties are needed.
“Nursing is evolving every day,” Safie says. “What I was doing five years ago is completely different now. To improve and be a leader you have to be willing to change and grow.”
When giving advice to people who are thinking of going into nursing, Safie says, “Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers. This isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.”