Bridging the Gap: The End of the Beginning

As I near the completion of the semester and approach a milestone in the project, I am left with several acquired lessons, a broadened perspective and an array of novel thoughts and ideas.

Prior to joining this project team, my goal was simply to improve health outcomes in this underserved community. I sought to extend health care access to a population that is known to face inequities not only in healthcare, but in essentially all other major systems. That is my purpose. Although this purpose has not changed, I have developed more specific intentions relating to how my purpose is fulfilled.

One significant lesson that I’ve learned from this project is the importance of self-efficacy and motivation. I realized that regardless of how important my patients’ health is to me, there will not be progress unless the patients themselves acknowledge the importance of health promoting behaviors. A realization that was equally as important is that lack of existing motivation or action can be the result of numerous factors that healthcare professionals may not be aware of. Some of these factors may include decreased health literacy, the burden of other stressors, lack of access and even fear. With this insight, I have instilled addressing these specific factors into my overall purpose. For me, this requires approaching people with a holistic mindset. It means really getting to know the person that I am seeking to help. It means increasing my emotional intelligence and developing the capacity to step into another person’s shoes and anticipate their needs. Lastly, it means encouraging others to make the same efforts.

As you absorb these words, you may become inquisitive about how, if at al,l this could relate to you. So you’re not a healthcare worker? Are you a teacher who can ensure that young Black children develop literacy skills that exceed their statistical low averages? Are you a corporate business owner who can offer affordable health insurance benefits? Are you a law enforcement official who can advocate against racial profiling and stand as an example in an effort to ease the burden of health-deteriorating stressors? Yes, this blog is intended to illustrate my journey throughout this project and relate it to my purpose but affecting change in others aligns with my purpose, too. Engaging with this community and providing mechanisms for blood pressure control for these men was a huge win, but it was only the beginning.

Change is the product of consistency. Consistency can undoubtedly be challenging, especially with the introduction of barriers. During this project, I struggled with maintaining communication with patients because of their financial inability to pay their phone bills. I struggled with overwhelming emotions as I realized how complex my patient’s needs were and how limited I was with resources that I could offer. I faced losing multiple patients to death. What I gained from these challenges, however, is the drive to be more consistent. I was constantly reminded of the reasons for my purpose and why it’s so significant. I was encouraged to view each failed attempt as the end of something that was just an introduction; something that created space for more progress and success, the end of what was only the beginning.

Unique Whitehurst is from Long Beach, CA. She is a member of the Duke University School of Nursing’s MSN-NP class of 2023 specializing in psychiatry and mental health. Unique is a recent December 2020 graduate of Duke’s ABSN program where she was recognized as an executive board member for DUSON’s Active Minds organization, an inductee of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, and the selected student speaker and exemplar of excellence at the annual Commitment to Excellence Ceremony. Unique is a current member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and serves as a graduate student research leader at Duke. Her research interests center around improving health outcomes for minority populations. Her current research efforts involve collaborating with community partners to decrease the burden of hypertension in African American males here in the Durham County area.

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