Small Victories

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Any person who has worked in the field of homelessness has experienced the frustrations that naturally come with the job.  You love the job. You have often allowed the job to change who you are, what you believe and how you view the world. But this field certainly comes with it’s challenges.  In our experience, the frustrations has rarely come from our patients. Of course they are don’t always follow the ‘rules’ of engagement with the medical system. Sometimes their logic makes us take pause. Maybe you have orchestrated a fantastic plan only to find that your patient is not interested in your version of ‘saving’ them.  But these encounters do not deter. My frustrations usually come from things like funding, funding and funding. I am sure many community health providers could lull you to sleep with their creative strategies to get blood from a stone. 

On the other hand, there are small vicotories aboud. 

4 months ago, Brett launched an inpatient consult service at Lehigh Valley Hospital (PA).  It had never been done before and no one knew what to expect once it went live. The day the Street Medicine Consult Service was an option in our computerized ordering system, Brett texted me a screen shot of the order set. We sent it to friends and family (half of which probrably looked at it wondering what the heck they were looking at) like a picture of a new child.  It may not have meant a lot to others, but to us, it was a huge step.  Recognition of existence. 

Now we waited. Would anyone know it was available? Would they think of it? Would they recognize a homeless person even if they didn’t ‘look’ homeless?  Brett embarked on an education blitz. He met with nurses, residents, administrators, case managers. Anyone who made eyecontact with him in the hallway got a quick innoculation of street medicine news. 

Yesterday was a cause for celebration in our house.  Brett completed his 50th Street Medicine consult. A handful (less than 5) were repeat consults. This is an astounding number of people who were never identified before and the overwhelming majority had no connection with any homeless services in our area. This small victory belongs to the many people who took the time to ask the right questions and placed the consult.  

I always tell me students that the challenge of being new in medicine is that you don’t know what you don’t know. The same goes for helping the homeless in our area. Without being identified, no one can recognize your existence and reach out a hand. 

Brett and I are reading a book about Mother Teresa. In the introduction, she is describes herself as a tiny pencil in God’s hands. He can sharpen or dull the pencil and do what He wills on the blank canvas. When the work is done, she says, we do not sit back and admire the pencil. But rather, admire the work that He has done. 

Job well done Lehigh Valley. Job well done. 


  1. Kathy Ehrhardt says:

    Congratulations on completing 50 street medicine consults Brett! This is a wonderful accomplishment in such a short time. Many have been helped and many more to come!


  2. Suzanne Jadico says:

    unbelievable. you guys are truly an inspiration.


  3. Jim Withers says:

    One of the great things about street medicine consults (besides better patient care of course) is how is can help transform the vision of those within the health care system towards the positive. God bless all of you.


  4. Leslie says:

    I am the Parish Administrator of a center city church. I have walk-ins of homeless fairly regularly. Is there a way to connect them to services?


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