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Linda Venzke

  • August 13, 2021

Linda Venzke
Medical Director
Luke Society Inc.
Galveston, Texas

I’m actually considered the medical director. I’m an RN with my master’s in nursing. I’ve been a part of the group – the Luke Society Incorporated is the name of our group, our clinic. We started 30 years ago taking students to Mexico on mission trips, and then the need in our own backyard was here. So we opened a street clinic in Galveston, literally on the street corner, outside, and on Saturday mornings from eight to nine o’clock prior to COVID, we saw about 100 to 110 patients a Saturday, and we would give them a week’s supply or two weeks ‘supply of meds. Now, post-COVID, we’re doing a 30-day supply of meds. And so our numbers are down to about 40 every Saturday because we want to social distance and have to be able to spread out and do proper infection control. Before, it was sort of a MASH unit outside on the street corner. We operate with the medical school close to us. So we have nursing students, medical students, and PA [physician’s assistant] students that help staff the clinic, along with professionals and lay volunteers.

We’re totally a volunteer organization. And I sometimes forget that I need to take care of my volunteers. Like when I have a new student group come out, I try to spend time with them at the end to debrief them. But what the Americares sessions did, we actually did a little debriefing because the clinic ended at 9 or 9:15, we had breakfast and then the session would start at 9:30. So it gave us time to let people talk about what’s going on and spend time basically debriefing and focusing on how they were surviving. Because it’s rough to realize that you can’t do what you used to do. It’s a different world out there for us.

“Basically mental health is everything – number one. If the staff doesn’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of someone else.”

I think the strategy we got from a webinar is do what you need to do to reach the population and adjust accordingly. Give yourself credit that it’s okay to do it. And it’s okay to feel that it’s different. You know, we were feeling very guilty, especially when we were closed. We kept asking, “Please let us reopen – please!” People didn’t have meds for that timeframe. I mean, we are their provider of their blood pressure meds and their respiratory meds. And I don’t know how many patients ended up in the hospital because they didn’t have what we provided. So I think that that’s a strategy we got from the webinar.

One of my volunteers is in the doctorate of nursing practice program. She was able to listen to the webinar and had to write a paper. Well, guess what the topic was:  It was what she learned in the webinar!  And she actually challenged her staff who volunteer with us occasionally to listen to the webinars as well

You could say it all intertwined for us, just judging from the reaction. Like I said, we had like nine or 10 people in the room listening and you’d havethese aha moments. “Oh yeah. That’s what’s going on. Oh yeah. Okay, that’s us.” And somebody would reach over and slap the other person. “See that? Yeah, that’s what’s happening.” Because for a while, we got a little short tempered with each other. I really think that was a big benefit for us as we had time to come together and listen, and listen together and actually debrief again. People were willing and able and looked forward to each session. So I think that was good. They didn’t see it as a hindrance. They enjoyed it. Any opportunities for future education, we’d be open to have that opportunity for us.

I felt like it was focused on what we do, like somebody understood what we do, because most of the professional medical community does not understand what we do.

Extend our, thank you to Americares for the opportunity. I think it was a chance that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Basically mental health is everything – number one. If the staff doesn’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of someone else.