Health Heroes: Keeping People Well

Laura BlackwellLaura Blackwell is a nurse practitioner at the Samaritan House Redwood City Free Clinic, and one of the many Health Heroes you will see if you come in to visit us there. She had originally worked as a hospital nurse, and changed paths out of a desire to work with patients long-term, in a more relaxed setting.

“Samaritan House gives me an opportunity to see patients, keep my skills, and I really enjoy it, so I continue to volunteer here over the years.”

One of the advantages of working with recurring patients is that it provides the opportunity to teach patients how to improve their diet, exercise regime, and self-care. She asks patients about the choices they make, and delights in witnessing improvements in diet, fitness, and weight loss. Medical providers usually have to have these conversations in the doctor’s office, in a removed setting away from delicious but unhealthy foods that may be tempting their patients. It’s one thing to say you will choose broccoli over cake, it’s another to remember that at a family gathering surrounded by your favorite foods. This isn’t the case at the Redwood City Free Clinic.

Laura had an opportunity to see these choices in action at a potluck thrown by the clinic. She noticed that following the year in which staff particularly stressed nutritional education, patients brought healthier foods, like vegetarian options and salads to the event. “You could see that people had incorporated this into their life, and you could see the example with things they brought in the following year.”

This type of prevention and education is necessary for long-term improvements in people’s health. In Laura’s words, “This is why the clinic is so crucial. By keeping people well instead of having them end up in an emergency room situation where they’re very, very sick, we can treat them before their illness reaches a point where they require emergency care and keep them healthy. I think it’s very important that people have this place to go.”