Reflecting on this past week in Texas, I’ve come to realize that much of the expectations I had for the older adult focus groups were far from correct. Sure, there were a few digressions here and there and some of our hypotheses did in fact seem to be a factors in the utilization of the preventive health services offered by Medicare. But each truth was accompanied by even more surprises that leave me feeling emotionally invested and more open-minded.
I could never have anticipated the true range of experiences shared by our participants. Choice of health care provider, support systems, perspectives, all contributed to a colorful dialogue that taught me about privilege and the necessities of older age.
It was both enriching and strange to be viewed as a health professional. While I had hoped to be respected by adults in the focus group, I found myself bombarded by questions regarding things like optimal vaccination frequency and even normal physician behavior. While I wasn’t in a position to answer many of these concerns, I felt trusted and valued by those who asked and feel even more confident about my future in the the health care field.
I also became aware of the importance of dialogue about preventive health services. Listening to our participants express their opinions and discuss experiences, I discovered that they learned just as much from one another as they did from our questions. Interventions come in many different forms, but given the opportunity and space to talk amongst one another, dialogue can turn out to be one of the most potent ones.
This project doesn’t end with my departure. With revised strategies and new information the focus groups carry on, working to best meet the community’s needs. I feel proud of the work we’ve done and I believe that I’ve come out a more thoughtful, reflective being. This is just the beginning to my career as a public health professional and I look forward to the future with passion and a commitment to those in need.