Expectations For Lhop Volunteers By Jennifer Whitney
  • Maintain patient confidentiality: this includes not only names and medical details, but things like locations of encampments, job sites, and other information that could potentially be used to arrest and/or deport our patients. This goes for everyone — front desk workers, interpreters, and of course, providers.
  • Be honest with us and your patient about language skills. Don't pretend to understand things if you don't. To interpret, or provide care without an interpreter, you must be bilingual.
  • Be on time. Really.
  • Make no promises or commitments on behalf of the organization. You may say that LHOP might be interested or available, but always be clear with others that you must check with us beforehand.
  • Keep your word. If you make a commitment to anyone as an individual, keep it. Sometimes it can be better not to tell people that you intend to do it, just in case you are unable to follow through.
  • Use the "usted" form of address unless your patient is a child, or unless you have already established a solid rapport with him over time. We know this isn't always easy if you learned Spanish in Mexico or Central America, where these forms are less common. But we would like you to make the effort.
  • Always maintain a high degree of professionalism with patients. Keep your voice down, do not use inappropriate language; do not laugh at them or their manners of speech; do not flirt with them. There are intense power dynamics at play between patients and providers, which can include issues of race, gender, citizenship, access to education, and more.
  • Come to clinic prepared to work. Please don't plan to make phone calls, eat meals, or do other things during clinic hours. There will sometimes be free time available for this, but we often need your full participation at all times (allowing of course for a break during the clinic in Kenner).
  • Work within your scope of practice, as well as your skill level and comfort level. Ask for help and support when needed. Get second opinions as often as you like. Remain humble. Remember that three of the most important words in health care, after "do no harm" are "I don't know."
  • Do not ask patients for personal details such as last name, immigration status, exact location of campsites or living situations, and the like. Please be explicit when you ask for their name, as in: ┬┐Cual es su primer nombre?" You may ask if they have access to a kitchen, to ice, and other relevant things.
  • Assume nothing about patients. They may be way more informed about medicine than we suspect; they may have access to other resources; they may be better equipped to make good decisions about their health than any of us are. They also may or may not be wealthy, undocumented, happy with their job, monolingual, educated, foreman of a work crew, certified asbestos removal technicians, politically conservative, hurricane survivors, health care professionals themselves in their country of origin, etc.
  • Do not accept gifts from patients. Or invitations. If you build relationships with people over time, there may be exceptions to this, but in general, we want to maintain very clear boundaries.
  • Never correct providers publicly. This creates ill will among us, and can undermine a patient's trust.
  • Do not give interviews in LHOP's name. Feel free to talk about your experience, but until and unless you have worked with us over a long period of time, and we've discussed it with you, we would prefer that you not try to represent us to the media. We would rather do that ourselves, so you may refer any requests for interviews to Catherine or Jennifer. We're happy to give you some detailed information on our history and the like; just ask.
  • Be prepared to be flexible, have a sense of humor, and work in seemingly chaotic situations.
  • Please respect the fact that we have been doing this work in New Orleans since late September, 2005. Though we don't claim to have met all our challenges, much of what you might perceive as disorganization or poor planning is actually a conscious and deliberate choice. We are totally open to feedback from you, we always want to make our clinics better for our patients and ourselves; just please remember that a great deal of thought, analysis, and discussion has led to how things currently function, and that we are not as haphazard as we may seem!

Because of the particular vulnerability of many of our patients, we are committed to hold our volunteers to these standards. By coming to our clinics, you are agreeing to work within these guidelines. Please talk to us if you have any questions, or are, for whatever reason, unable to meet these expectations.

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