February is National School-based Health Center Awareness Month, and I would like to share my story.
My name is Jemima Safi, and I have attended schools with Denver Health’s school-based health centers (SBHC) for most of my life. I am not surprised that my family and I continue to get our medical care at Denver Health Pediatrics at Denver Public Schools. We receive quality health care from kindhearted staff members. I attended Place Bridge Academy and South High School in Denver, where I learned and utilized resources offered at my SBHC. I have built many connections and relationships with school-based staff members throughout my years in school. I can say without a doubt that I have never received such support and respect in any clinics/hospitals the way I have at my SBHC. My dedication to the SBHC program stemmed from these relationships.
Young people often struggle to seek health care because we may be afraid of being judged and looked down upon by health professionals. Some would say, “Health professionals think we don't know anything, they see us as immature teenagers.” It is that feeling of inferiority that makes youth resist accessing health care even if access isn’t a barrier for them. For adolescents, health care is not just “caregiving”; it has a lot to do with patient-provider relationships, the environment, the vibe, everything.
How did the patient feel when they walked into the clinic/hospital?
Did the patient feel heard?
Were the providers and other staff members kind?
What tone of voice did the provider use?
Were the patient’s questions answered?
Let me share some of my most fond experiences from my SBHC. Let's have X, Y and Z be the names of some of the school-based staff that played a huge role in my journey.
I remember X being the person that always answered my questions regarding confidential appointments at my SBHC in South High School. Sometimes I would go back to the clinic over three times a day, but she never questioned me. Instead, she made me feel welcome. Y was my therapist during my junior year of high school. She was always there to advise me and listen to my complaints about pre-calculus and boy drama – very helpful of course, especially at that point in my life. Z was a sexual health educator at South High School who helped me navigate information and access sexual health resources I was unaware of at the time. She took the time to reach out to me and made sure I had everything I needed.
The best part about all this is what happened a few years later. I applied as a sexual health youth adviser for Denver Health last year and got the job. What I didn't know was that X, Y, and Z all worked in the same department that I would be working in! This really highlighted our bond at work because of the previous relationship we had prior to my employment at Denver Health. This is all to say, I have met amazing people through SBHCs that not only positively influenced my life in high school, but in the present as well.
Jemima Safi is a school-based youth adviser for Denver Health. She recently shared her story with Fox31 News, which you can watch here.