January 25, 2011

A Health Literacy Coordinator's Stay at the Hospital

I spent most of last week in "one of the top 100 hospitals in America" at the bedside of my girlfriend who was in for a cholecystectomy. A WHAT??? Oh, sorry. She had her gall bladder removed.

"Cholecystectomy," that's a new word I learned last week, along with about 25 others such as intravenous, intraoperative, supine, phenergran, and on and on. Being that I have spent more hours in the past year researching and working with health literacy than sleeping, I felt well prepared and empowered as my gf's patient advocate. We made a list of questions upon checking into the hospital and continually added to it over the next 4 days. We were relentless in our question asking; getting opinions from everyone from the surgeon to the cleaning lady.

At one point we actually made a nurse feel quite uncomfortable as she was struggling to explain the anti-nausea medicine, phenergran, to her drowsy, scared patient. I was persistent in my repetition of, "Wait, what does that mean?" and "Sclerosed veins? I don't understand, can you tell us what the side effects are in Laymen's terms?" At all of my pestering, the nurse dejectedly admitted, "I'm not a very good teacher. I know what I'm doing but I've never been a good teacher."

The hospital at which we stayed has the mission to "strive to provide exceptional care to every patient every day with a spirit of warmth, friendliness and personal pride." I believe them. Although striving to provide this exceptional, patient-centered care, and regardless of their ranking as a top 100 hospital, my girlfriend and I saw HUGE room for improvement. I hope I see those direct-care staff again someday and I hope that when that time comes, that they are sitting in on one of the Literacy Coalition's Health Literacy Trainings. I'm proud to provide a product that drastically improves patient-provider communication and patient-care, even at a top 100 hospital.

January 18, 2011

events, more events, and sponsorships, oh my!

As the Development and Communications Officer here at the Literacy Coalition, I am always thinking about how this organization can creatively bring in more income.  As many of you know, we are seeing a huge expansion this year!!  (For those of you that didn't know that, here are some details: We are bringing two national programs to Austin! The Learner Web and Literacy*AmeriCorps!)  But, in order for all of that to go smoothly and eventually stabilize, our income must grow, and that's where I come in.  Today, I'm going to talk a little about events & sponsorships and how those things can bring in money for your organization.

1) Events.  Back in October, I blogged about the Literacy Coalition's events and gave you all some practical questions to ask yourselves before you and your organization embarked on a new event.  It was all good advice and we actually thought through the events we had in place and have changed some things up.  Our Happy Bees have taken off and are still going strong every 1st Tuesday of each month, however our monthly 'get to know us' events have been put on hold.  A lot of factors played into those decisions, and the biggest one for you to consider should by 'Who are you trying to reach?'  Without knowing this, you'll embark on a huge project and end up disappointed when you don't get the results you want.

Right now, our focus is on our Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee for Literacy on April 28th!  (If YOU are interested in participating, reply to this blog post!)  But it's not just the event itself that we're planning for... we are slaving over securing sponsorships!

2) Sponsorships.  Sponsorships are a great way to earn money for your cause while also connecting with local businesses!  By offering some sponsorship benefits in return, you can provide a business with great visibility.  For example, we choose to recognize our 'presenting sponsors' by placing their logo and a 'thanks' on the front page of our website.  (*Very Important: Make sure you know the rules and UBIT laws about what you can provide tax-free in return for sponsorship dollars!!  Consult an attorney to make sure you are abiding by the laws!) 

Also, don't think soliciting sponsors will be a piece of cake... just like a grant proposal, you will want to approach sponsors with the mind-set of getting them involved with your organization/cause/work.  Some businesses won't see your sponsorship benefits as that great of a deal, but it's not really all about that.  Sponsorship is a chance for a business to put their name on something for a good cause - you still have to cultivate and steward those relationships!  (Hint: Businesses don't want to contribute to an event that only yields 15% profit... they want to know that their money is actually going to help your organization, not just pay for the event!)  And follow-up is a must - let those sponsors know what you are doing with their money and how it's having a positive impact on the community!  By keeping them in the loop, you'll keep them coming back for more sponsorships in the future.

My advice to you is to get creative!  Do you have any stories to share about events and sponsorships? Reply below and let us know!  I'd love to hear your personal stories!

January 10, 2011

Because everyone needs a little help when it comes to healthcare

So, I just finished my second month as Health Literacy Specialist VISTA at the Literacy Coalition! I already take pleasure in looking back and assessing all I've learned about literacy in the healthcare setting over just a couple of months. One of the biggest surprises so far has been finding out that even I underestimated the health resources available to me before my days at The Coalition. My wake-up call came in the form of my first beast of an undertaking with the LCCT: the 2011 Healthcare Resource Directory.

As mundane as updating hundreds of addresses and phone numbers may be, the reward at the end of it all is pretty substantial. For those of you who have never used our directory, it can be best described as a consolidation of information on all of the low-cost clinics, hospitals, specialty health services, and healthcare benefits programs available to Central Texans and their families. It’s designed to be used by professionals in healthcare, social services, adult education… whoever has access to populations at risk for low health literacy. Those professionals are in a prime spot to be valuable resources to patients through personal referrals. The new and improved 3rd edition of The Directory will contain all of the helpful information the 2nd did last year, with the addition of a new chapter dedicated to healthcare navigation and patient resources. This chapter will list services Central Texans need to fill out their health benefits applications, get to their appointments, coordinate their medications and treatments, get legal advice about their healthcare, and more. The latest edition will also include a handy index, expanded glossary, and a few other tricks to help users find the information they need, fast.

I once thought that the right motivation and total access to pretty much every imaginable piece of information every person has ever documented (A.K.A. the Internet) would be more than enough to equip me for making simple health decisions. Turns out... Not so much. Having access to everything doesn’t always mean finding what you need. With The Directory, we try to fill that gap between information access and actual comprehension. We do all the sifting and sorting so that you can skip a few headaches and help more people. Cool, huh?

The 2011 Healthcare Resource Directory is set to roll out in early February, so e-mail me at lobar@willread.org A.S.A.P. to reserve your organization’s copy!

January 6, 2011

New Year's Resolutions!

Yes. We are jumping on the New Year's Resolution bandwagon.  Why not, right?  As an organization, we have some pretty big dreams for 2011...

One big dream is to bring Literacy*AmeriCorps to Austin!  Why is this a big deal?  By bringing this national program to Austin, we will be mobilizing talented and dedicated volunteers to take action fighting the serious issue of illiteracy.  Right now, it is estimated that less than 3% of people in need of literacy services actually have access to them.  That is not ok.  Our community is suffering and we believe Literacy*AmeriCorps will be a step in the right direction!  By bringing this program to Austin, hundreds of families will receive thousands of hours of literacy instruction that otherwise wouldn't have been available.

As far as resolutions...I'll go out on a limb and list a few that pertain to my role as the Development and Communications Officer:
  1. Get more community members engaged in the issue of literacy.
  2. Get more corporations and businesses involved in supporting our work.
  3. Get more involved with social media - as an organization, be on Facebook more, Tweet more (follow us @ReachTeachUnite), and blog more!!
  4. Get to know our individual donors on a deeper level.
Do you have any big dreams or New Year's Resolutions?!  If so, share them with us!  Especially if one of yours involves volunteering in a literacy classroom, donating to a literacy organization, or learning more about a very serious issue in your community :)