Academics and Research

Social work student inspired by health care internship

“I wanted to shed light on a population whose voices are very rarely heard and to show that navigating the health care system is really difficult," Kayley Carson says of the op-ed she wrote for the Denver Post. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

“I wanted to shed light on a population whose voices are very rarely heard and to show that navigating the health care system is really difficult,” Kayley Carson says of the op-ed she wrote for the Denver Post. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Kayley Carson, a second-year student in the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), has been passionate about social work since she was an undergraduate.

While studying psychology at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., she was inspired to pursue social work after completing an internship in palliative care with the Sisters of Saint Mary Health, Hospice and Home-Care Foundation. This year, she completed another internship that greatly affected her life: a patient navigation internship with the Hot Spotters program at the University of Colorado Hospital.

The term “patient navigation” describes the process of explaining health care resources to patients who are eligible for Medicaid or other government-funded programs.

“[As Hot Spotters] our main objective was to connect people to resources in the emergency department,” Carson says. “It’s a really special population, because it represents a lot of vulnerable people who have low socioeconomic status or are homeless and who frequently use the emergency department to meet their health needs.”

Carson is concentrating in health and wellness at GSSW. Although she had already completed her required internship credits for the degree, she decided to apply for the Hot Spotters internship because she is committed to helping those who are underrepresented in health care. After completing her internship, she was inspired to submit an article to the Denver Post op-ed page to share her experience.

In the article, Carson tells the story of a homeless patient with type 2 diabetes who had no reliable transportation, no resources to schedule doctors’ appointments and little to no knowledge of his insurance benefits. She spent more than two hours with him, scheduling appointments, finding him shelter and arranging transportation.

She says she decided to submit the article because she wanted to give a voice to the people she’d helped.

“I wanted to shed light on a population whose voices are very rarely heard and to show that navigating the health care system is really difficult. Health care delivery systems don’t always think about all the barriers that people face or the social determinants of health that truly impact a person’s ability to feel healthy and have an overall sense of well-being,” Carson says. “I would feel totally irresponsible if I left there without trying to let people know about this population whose voices are not heard.”

Although she’s not sure if she will pursue patient navigation after graduation, Carson is sure her experience will help her in her career as a social worker. After graduating at the end of the 2015–16 academic year, she hopes to begin a career providing psychosocial support to newly diagnosed diabetes patients.

“This will always be something I will be dedicated to, whether or not I’m doing patient navigation specifically,” Carson says. “This is my passion. I will always incorporate it into everything that I’m doing. Connecting people to resources and helping people with continuity of care, I’ll do that for sure.”

 

 

 

 

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