As some of my classmates have mentioned, I was initially interested in taking a sociology course. Being a psychology major and having done extensive work in social psych, I assumed I already knew everything I needed. I think I may have been unsure about what sociology actually meant, and did not think it would be applicable to my career path.
During the course, I was pleasantly surprised. While there was a lot of reading, a lot of it was really interesting stuff that I would have never been exposed to in other classes. Most of the things we learned can be applied to a vast number of professions in the medical field, and I often found myself thinking about it in specific terms of clinical psychology. I definitely became a lot more educated on the structure (or lack of structure) of the health care system in both the U.S. and in other countries. Though I am not headed to medical school, I enjoyed learning about the hidden curriculum and other aspects of medical education that I was not familiar with. Being a psych major, my favorite conversations were definitely those about stigma and mental health issues.
In closing, I enjoyed the course a lot more than I was expecting to. I learned a lot and I think the course is a valuable one for anyone planning to work in the medical field.
The article “Tip-Toeing Toward Conversations About Death” discusses a new Massachusetts state law that requires doctors to provide “vulnerable” patients with information about end-of-life care. It is emphasized that no counseling is required by the law because the goal is simply to start the conversation.
On the one hand, I agree that starting the conversation is the most important goal and that many people may choose to have deeper conversations on the topic with family members. On the other hand, not all “vulnerable” patients may have someone outside to talk to, and professional counseling on the subject may be a helpful resource to have available.
It is also noted that patients with dementia should be having this conversation, which I think becomes difficult because of the nature of the condition. I wonder: how much of the end-of-life care responsibility (information, counseling, etc.) lies with the professionals?
The recent events surrounding Charlie Sheen are extremely relevant to the conversation we have been having in class. Specifically, we have discussed the stigma that surrounds certain conditions such as HIV/AIDS. In the US, there is an overwhelming racial inequality when it comes to HIV in that African Americans, primarily those below the poverty line, make up the majority of the statistic. It is often believed that people with HIV have it because of their own poor choices or risky behaviors, and many people look down on them for this. The experience of the disease is much different from the biology. Now, a famous white actor has come out with being HIV positive, though he has said he tried to hide it and released the information unwillingly. In his interview, he claims his confession will be helpful to others living with HIV.
Do you think he is correct? Will this change the stigma around HIV for the better or for the worse? Watch his interview if you are interested in his outlook.
Having grown up in Baltimore and being a student entering the mental health field, I found this article by Jim Joyner in the Baltimore Sun extremely important. He writes about the state’s decision to end a program called the Public Safety Compact, which is aimed at ending recidivism and giving prisoners a second chance. The Public Safety Compact is a part of the Safe and Sound Campaign of Maryland. The PSC is an agreement between Baltimore non-profit organizations and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to help parolees find jobs and stay sober. The program’s goal is to save money by keeping the parolees from returning to jail and helping them assimilate back into society successfully. The contract on this program ends on Saturday, but Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen expresses her unhappiness with this decision and explains the grim reality that “in our city, 8 out of 10 use illegal substances, and 4 out of 10 have undiagnosed mental illness.”
The issue of addiction an incarceration is not a new one, and is one that is frequently discussed by political candidates. Addiction is a disease, and the best way to support the people suffering from it is to treat them, not punish them. Incarceration due to minor drug offenses causes overcrowding in prisons, which is a major problem nationally. However, there is a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, and not everyone agrees that it should be approached like other diseases. The idea that it is something “people bring on themselves” and should have to fix themselves is responsible for a lot of the discontent surrounding programs such as the PSC. In the article, Wen calls the prisoners struggling with addiction “our most vulnerable citizens” and urges the state to reconsider ending a program that has been found to be successful for many of them. We have been talking a lot about what kind of changes must be made in order to better health care. As far as addiction, or many other mental health issues, go, we need to work in our communities to get rid of the stigma that leads people to believe “our most vulnerable citizens” do not deserve our help. Until we change how we look at these issues, it will be very difficult to help this population.
Details about Safe and Sound and the PSC: http://www.abell.org/case-studies/safe-and-sound-campaignpublic-safety-compact
Baltimore Sun reporter Meredith Cohn writes about Baltimore’s newest health campaign. As one of the most violent American cities, Baltimore’s hospitals see extremely high rates of youth every day. Many of the injuries being dealt with are violence related: stab wounds, gunshot wounds, broken hands. Cohn writes about the “treat and street” mentality that has been prevalent so far, where health care providers treat the injuries at hand and release the patients without any further help or direction. In an attempt to provide more help for Baltimore’s youth, health officials have announced the “Words Not Weapons” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to get doctors and nurses more involved with the underlying causes of the violence and reach out in meaningful way that may prevent further violence. This may include involving social workers or connecting the youth to resources such as shelters or job-training programs. Health officials hope that hospitals and emergency rooms can be a valuable tool in tackling the violence problem because they see the youth immediately after they are involved in violence.
As a native of Baltimore, I think this campaign is a great idea. In a perfect world, we would be able to provide more intervention within the community before violence occurs, but cultural barriers prevent us from walking into impoverished inner city neighborhoods and handing out pamphlets. The idea of health care professionals reaching out while they are actually treating injuries may be much more effective, if even just because the patient is forced to hear the doctor or nurse out. The problem of violence needs to be addressed as early as possible in order to help the youth before they fall victim to the penal system or end up dead. In order to educate the health care providers on the best ways to do this, seminars or training should be held. This holistic approach of clinical professionals working with social workers and others may be extremely beneficial to this cause.