- Alba Nino, Ph.D., LMFT, Associate Professor, Alliant International University, San Diego, CA. Mental Health Provider, UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic, San Diego, CA
- Alec Terrana, B.A., Medical student, UC San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, CA
- Diana Alvarado, B.S., Interpreter/Telehealth volunteer, UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic, San Diego, CA
- Sol D'Urso, M.A., LMFT, Mental Health Provider, UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic, San Diego, CA
- Jacqueline McClish, Ph.D., Interpreter/Telehealth Coordinator, UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic, San Diego, CA
- Celia J. Falicov, Ph.D., Director of Mental Health Services, UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic, San Diego, CA
The UC San Diego student-run free clinics (SRFCs) are interdisciplinary partnerships that offer medical and behavioral health services at no cost to predominantly Latinx immigrant families while educating medical trainees and interpreters. The unique circumstances and pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately impacted the primarily underserved population cared for at the SRFCs. This has prompted a shift in both the delivery and interdisciplinary coordination of care. The shift in care delivery is reflected in the transition to telehealth as the primary vehicle for medical and behavioral healthcare at the SRFCs. Spearheaded by medical students and interpreters, this transition has increased access to care by opening up new, more flexible avenues for patients to meet with providers. However, the broader circumstances of the pandemic and the shift to telehealth, which required connecting patients with technology, equipment, and instruction they often do not have, caused their own pressures. These include heightened stress of both patients and providers, a consequent increase in the volume of mental health referrals, and difficulties intrinsic to telehealth. To address these new needs, an interdisciplinary team consisting of interpreters, medical students, and mental health professionals has come together for regular Fireside Chats. These monthly meetings represent an innovative approach to mental health education and self-care that spans disciplines. By providing a space to discuss nuances of providing care to a predominantly Spanish-speaking, immigrant population in Southern California with different members of the care team, the Fireside Chats have strengthened trainees’ competency in addressing mental health with patients, as well as offered a valuable network of support to buffer against the deleterious effects of vicarious trauma. These sessions have also strengthened the relationship between medical students and interpreters to promote partnerships that more effectively elevate the perspectives and concerns of their patients. In this presentation, a transdisciplinary team from the SRFC will describe their experiences adapting the provision of care at the clinic to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in relation to the use of telehealth. This will include a discussion of the challenges faced during this transition, the strategies developed to face these challenges, and the new opportunities that emerged by providing services remotely. In addition, the presenters will introduce the Fireside Chats as a place of learning, coordination, cross-pollination, and mutual support that translates to better provision of services for the SRFCs’ clients. This commitment to putting patients first ultimately brings together the diverse voices of the SRFCs to provide culturally-sensitive mental healthcare amidst a period of great adversity.
- Identify specific challenges posed to the underserved, predominantly Latinx immigrant population seen at the SRFCs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Identify specific challenges posed to the underserved, predominantly Latinx immigrant population seen at the SRFCs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Understand the role of interdisciplinary Fireside Chats in promoting mental health equity and provider self-care by connecting care team members.