Member Spotlight: Johnna Kayser, Pittsburgh HealthCorps

by: Beci Russell

edited by: Tina Norland

Where are you from and can you tell me about your family?

I was born in Clarion, PA, but I’ve lived in Youngstown, OH since I was 5 years old. I’m an only child. My mother, Tina, works for AT&T. My dad, Keith, works for a manufacturing company called STAR. They’re still young, but they act old!

I live with my boy-toy, Tyler, on the Southside. We’ve been together since freshman year of high school and then we went to college together. We started living together my junior year of college and moved to Pittsburgh for my AmeriCorps position and his advertising job.

What’s your Alma Mater?

Ohio University! The Bobcats…meow!

Where do you serve, and what is your role there?

I serve at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. My official title is Patient Support Specialist. My role entails going out on the Mobile Medical Unit to service our patients that might not have as much access to transportation. I also do patient education and orientations.

What led you to AmeriCorps and the HealthCorps, specifically?

I interned with an AmeriCorps/ComCorps program my junior year at OU on the administrative end. One of my jobs was to edit all the position descriptions, so I had an insider look at this position before it was even available. It seemed like a fun and impactful role: to serve the community and gain valuable hands-on work in the field. Hence, here I am!

What did you do before you started your service year?

I graduated in June 2012. Tyler and I moved here in the middle of the night the day I graduated to avoid the traffic in the Southside! We got here around 6 or 7 the next morning (U-hauls don’t really do well over 55MPH…). But, I started working as a pharmacy tech at the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle to help with the bills until I started my program in September. I still work at the pharmacy. A girl’s got to eat!

What are some of your future goals?

I want to obtain employment as a health care educator after my service term in AmeriCorps. More long term, I’d like to return to school to get my MPH (Masters in Public Health).

Where can we find you on a weekend in Pittsburgh?

On a weekend? I have no life. So, either working or hanging out in my apartment reading ‘Pretty Little Liars’. Seriously.

What have you taken away from your experience in HealthCorps so far?

Being in school and learning about healthcare, you become numb to the stories. But once you’re actually involved and you see the impact of the people involved in the process (both clinical and patients), you gain a new perspective and that numbness starts to go away. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but that’s a good lesson to learn.

Can you tell us about a memorable moment you have had with a client?

This happened sometime last month: I had a patient on the Mobile Unit that needed to go to get an x-ray. The Mobile Unit is really crowded most of the time: patients, family members, interpreters, docs, medicals assistants…me. You can imagine how loud it gets.

She was a Burmese speaker; she didn’t know how to use the bus system, or what she had to do when she got to the appointment and was pretty nervous. So I stood down on the entrance steps of the Unit so that I could be at eye level with her standing on the landing and I had an interpreter on our phone line, but it was really loud and she couldn’t hear him. I kept yelling into the phone that the interpreter needed to speak louder; other patients were talking and laughing. It was a circus. We finally got the information transferred and she was so relieved that she told the interpreter to tell us how nice we all were and to thank us. She gave me a hug when she left which is always nice. Moments like that are just such a great reaffirmation that although I can’t always communicate verbally with my patients, the message gets through. Warm fuzzies!

Thanks for sharing with us, Johnna!

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