This is another in a series of profiles of health care professionals who have benefited from the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program. The MLRP works to increase access to comprehensive primary care in underserved areas, by providing up to $50,000 towards outstanding educational loans for health professionals who commit to work at an eligible health care organization for two full-time years.
During college Jennifer Meade wasn’t sure what career she would pursue. It was when she witnessed the personal care and respect given to her sick grandmother by home care nurses that Jennifer decided to become a nurse herself.
“We would go over and visit her, and seeing the nurses and how they interacted with her and how much dignity they treated her with – that really inspired me,” Jennifer remarks. “The close interaction you have with patients and how much of an affect you can really have on their lives,” is what prompted Jennifer to pursue a career in nursing.
Today, Jennifer is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) at Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, a community health center in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston that offers a variety of medical, community, and public health services to low income and immigrant populations there.
At Dorchester House Jennifer works in family medicine, treating pediatric, adult, geriatric and urgent care patients. Once a week Jennifer makes home visits with geriatric patients. “I look forward to these home visits,” she told us, “because the geriatric population is what inspired me to go into nursing in the first place.” The variety of her work keeps Jennifer going, she added, “it keeps each day different. It’s definitely never boring and I’m always learning new things.”
Jennifer, a real people person, was drawn to primary care because it would allow her to develop relationships with patients. “It’s very rewarding in that you get to develop long term relationships with patients,” she said. “You get to develop trusting relationships where they come to you and respect your opinion and want to know what you think. I like the continuity of care, especially now with a big focus on the medical home and patient centered care — I feel like it’s good to have a home with someone where we can keep tabs on everything.”
Jennifer has learned that providers who work with underserved populations have to have an understanding of the social and economic barriers that impact their patients’ health. "It’s important to focus on the whole patient picture, everything that’s going on in their lives — support systems, financial concerns, stressors – all of these have a huge impact on patients,” she says. “It’s not like you are just treating their hypertension; you have to put it in the context of what else is going on.”
Jennifer applied to the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program based on the encouragement of the human resources staff at Dorchester House. In January she learned that her MLRP application had been accepted.
Jennifer believes that the MLRP plays an important role in allowing providers to continue to work in communities, where there are significant health disparities and clinician shortages. “I have a passion for being able to help people," she says, “and loan repayment has helped allow me to not have to make a choice on where I work based only on the salary. I feel like that’s not something that you want to do and that’s not how you want to live. Honestly, waking up in the morning, I’m happy to come to work every day and that makes the big difference.”