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The American Enigma

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Robyn is a biomedical genetics student & healthcare worker. She shares what she learns so that more people can be informed too.

A Healthcare Enigma

What's the nation's obsession with healthcare, anyways? Theres a lot of science, history, and culture behind this question. But first, I'd like to share why I feel qualified to answer this question.

I have around seven years in healthcare experience at this point in my life. Some of those earlier years involved being a PCT for emergency physicians during my Texas days, and I'm currently employed at a level 1 trauma center in a thriving city.

I think its important to establish my background so that readers can decide if the opinions I share are trustworthy. I am currently applying to PA school, and have cherished each and every moment I have spent learning and working alongside my patients and peers.

With that being said, so what's the deal? America has battled with its vision of healthcare from what seems since the beginning of time. Currently, there are many questions up for debate regarding how we should handle our populations health concerns. For one, why is it so expensive to receive healthcare? I mean, its meant to improve quality of life and sometimes even save it, so why should we have to pay for it? It's almost a "pay to survive" mindset, which if you ask me, is quite barbaric. There is also a historical distrust between health providers and the community they serve, and why is that? And then there's the ultimate question - how do we make those things better? How can we implement a system that serves to benefit all its established for?

Okay, I'll slow down. What do I mean by we live in a pay to survive world? Well, America has this way of reacting to problems as opposed to preventing them. Not everything can be prevented, but most health conditions can be with proper education and resources. My favorite example is with type 2 diabetes mellitus. A large portion of our population suffers from this ailment, somewhere between 8 and 9 percent of people, to be exact. On top of this overwhelming number, an even more overwhelming number from those afflicted suffer from diabetic complications.

This is where my ED experience comes in. From my personal experience, the most frequent complications from diabetes include amputations due to reduced blood flow and necrotic tissues, cardiovascular disease, and blindness. These are all super serious consequences, so why don't we educate our society on this common affliction?

Don't worry, I haven't even landed my point yet. So, we don't teach our people how the disease is developed and the potential consequences from allowing it to progress, and then... what do we do? We charge you an insanely large amount of money to pay for the totally preventable and extremely costly treatment you will at some point inevitably need due to your condition.

Yep. Barbaric, I know. You might be wondering, well how are these consequences prevented, and why don't people do what they need to do to prevent them?

Well, because the medication is also an insane amount of money. Typically, type two diabetic medication costs anywhere between $200-$500. So we charge you a crazy amount of money to keep your condition at bay, but if you can't pay it, then you just have to wait for your condition to devolve before we can treat you and then charge you an even bigger amount. Yep, America is great.

There are a lot of complicated factors that influence the costs of healthcare in the states. But until we begin sharing these importantly relative health suggestions and educating our citizens, those numbers will only continue to rise.

I have more healthcare perspective for you, though, and it begins with a story. They other night, I worked an incredibly long shift involving multiple trauma activations, and a couple of deaths. One of our doctors whose name I will omit for now was discussing with our social worker the best way to inform the family, as they were taking a few moments together to collect themselves.

It was a hard shift. So at the end of the night when doc was leaving, I told him he had done a great job despite our loss. I hadn't really expected him to say anything or to react really, but to my surprise he abruptly stopped in his tracks and made direct eye contact with me. He said "it's been a long time since anyone has told me that."

This moment has been sitting heavy with me. Not only are our patients abused by the health system we enforce, but so are our are workers. Our shifts are so hectic that we don't even realize it. But the fact is, we are worked to the bone because the industry doesn't picture healthcare as a service. They picture us as a business. This is America, and it's no wonder why so much distrust exists in our field.

Here are some of my most cherished moments in the emergency department at varying facilities.

My girl, Lavenia, whom this hub is in dedication to.

My girl, Lavenia, whom this hub is in dedication to.

Getting to try out the painter's shoe stilts.

Getting to try out the painter's shoe stilts.

Mid-COVID pandemic - all goggled and masked up.

Mid-COVID pandemic - all goggled and masked up.

My peers talking through the window of a COVID room.

My peers talking through the window of a COVID room.

Our dedicated area in honoring the life of our friend and colleague, sweet Veenie.

Our dedicated area in honoring the life of our friend and colleague, sweet Veenie.

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An education enigma

Okay, this one will be shorter because the only experience I have with education is as a student. But, what's the deal with education in America?

Well, its complicated and like I said, I'm not a teacher. But my mom is. An excellent one, in fact. She has received multiple rewards for her dedication to her students, and has even made it her mission before in raising money to buy her music students new instruments to learn on. So to say the very least, I respect the crap out of our teachers. I mean they aren't paid very well, don't get credit for their countless hours outside of the classroom, and often don't receive the respect that they undoubtedly deserve.

Yet, we continue to criticize their efforts. Not only this, but we push this elitism expectation of needing to educated.

This idea always makes me contemplate, what would our world actually be like if everyone had this level of expected knowledge? Well, I highly doubt we would have anyone willing to do the jobs that we rely on for our economy to function. If every person pursued a four year degree and a prestigious career, where would we be? We wouldn't have people running the register at the grocery store, or preparing our food for us, or walking our dogs for us, that's for sure.

The fact of the matter is, those people are just as essential to our society as our lawyers and doctors and educators, but we refuse to tell them that.

Our essential members of society continue to be criticized and mocked for possessing a lower level job or not having the same opportunities to grow as others do.

This problem comes full circle because we don't give our educators nor our learners the resources they need despite our demand for only higher level education.

We have to do better. We have to support all the fundamental people of our society, which is everyone. We all rely on each other at the end of the day, which is the shining revelation of this bullet point. We are all important.

My beautiful momma, the teacher.

My beautiful momma, the teacher.

My mom helping us move to CO!

My mom helping us move to CO!

An American Dream?

These ideals beg the question, is America truly the dream?

Don't get me wrong, I want to take this moment to fully recognize that our country has overcome many great obstacles and is overall a safe and flourishing place to reside. But, the dream? I wouldn't go that far.

From my experience, no matter which facet of life I look at, we are a country of mixed standards and priorities. We have overcome many battles, but continue to create more. We don't guarantee healthy living conditions or access to health-improving resources. We expect greatness but don't give you proper resources to fulfill that standard. We become so busy blaming and criticizing each other that we end up ignoring the problems all together. This is our America.

So is America the dream? We’re not the worst, thats for sure. But… I'm not sure we should be the expectation.

If you've read this article, do me a favor. Standards willing, donate to that teacher friend's Amazon wish-list post on Facebook, because I can tell you the community won't be paying for the equipment they require.

If you go to the doctors office soon, be prepared to show a little more patience than what should be needed. Odds are, there isn't enough staff and it's already enough of a financial barrier to get into health-serving careers that it will likely stay that way.

If you are seen at an urgent care or emergency room, same thing. Higher acuity patients will always be of higher priority, so if you're waiting longer for your stitches or antibiotics, odds are it's because there is an actively life-threatening situation behind the wall in front of you, and everyone involved is going to need the utmost patience possible.

If you are ordering food at your favorite take-out restaurant, thank them for helping you and leave a good tip. Their service is just as necessary in our world as any other service, and they deserve to know that.


Dedicated to Lavenia Wickham <3

© 2022 Robyn

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