A critical issue that I witness first hand during my volunteer experience is lack of access to medical care. After my first day of volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House I pondered about why it is necessary for the house to exist in the first place and have continued to reflect upon it ever since. Upon thinking about this I ultimately decided it is because of what the American medical system lacks. The RMH (Ronald McDonald House) mission is to keep families together when it matters most. They offer a warm, welcoming home-away-from-home and services that range from schooling to meals to family-friendly activities.
Many of the families that live in the house come from around the country, or even from the other side of the globe. They uproot their families and leave everything behind to come to the Twin Cities in order to seek treatment for their sick child or children. This is ultimately because they are not able to access the specialized care that they need near home, so they are forced to come to the Twin Cities to seek treatment. It is wonderful that they are able to seek innovative and oftentimes promising treatments for their children, but the long and grueling process can be exhausting for the family at times. In some cases this can mean moving away from home for a year or more in order to seek adequate treatment for their child.
Not only have a witnessed the lack of access to healthcare, but many aspect that go along with that. Our economically driven medical system lacks many of the support mechanisms that are necessary to keep families in this situation healthy (both physically and emotionally). This is where the Ronald McDonald house comes in. We are able to provide a healthy environment for the families and children. They are provided with a place to live, meals, and school for the children as well as a huge variety of extra curricular activities to take their mind off of things after their long days at the hospital.
Issues such as this have always been intriguing to me. It makes me wonder how in a country where we value health so much, how could so many lack access to the healthcare they need as well as the support mechanisms to stay healthy during stressful times? I have been able to learn about this issue by taking sociology of health and illness class last semester. For the first time I was able to learn about the logistics of why the American healthcare system is the way it is. I believe that learning about the lack of access to healthcare and other gaps in the system is necessary to fix these problems. I would recommend others to take a sociology of health class because it really helps to understand the American healthcare system as a whole.
Considering this, I think this is the first step in creating change with regards to lack of access to medical care, as well as lack of support for families. Many Americans have no clue that this is a problem to begin with, or some that do don’t comprehend why. However, I believe that education on this issue is the first step to creating change. I think any individual can take part in providing support to families in our healthcare system by volunteering in a hospital or at organizations similar to the Ronald McDonald house. Individually, spreading the word about this prevalent issue is important as well. For example, if you know of an organization that supports families who lack access to medical care or support during tough times, simply sharing this information might encourage family/friends to donate or volunteer themselves.
As a future healthcare professional, I have high hopes for my own agency with relation to this issue. There are many hospitals around the United States that lack the support systems that families need when a child or parent has a life threatening illness. That being said, I would love to collaborate with organizations that do so to implement a program at the hospital that I am working in the future. Furthermore, I will continue to volunteer organizations that are looking to fill these gaps in the American medical system. In the past few years, the Ronald McDonald House organization has continued to grow and I see myself being a helping hand with that in the long run.