Nurses Leading with Care to Promote Health Justice, Equity, and Access to Quality Care

This month we honor nurses who use their knowledge of evidence-based practices to break down stigmas and barriers that prevent people from getting the holistic healthcare they need and deserve.

Tiffanie Correia, BSN, RN, CARN
Care Coordinator
Sweet Home Health Center
Corvallis, OR

It Takes a Team

“There are too many misconceptions around Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and its effectiveness. There is also skepticism around Community Court. I know, from my experience, that both programs are evidence-based and truly do improve people’s lives,” says Tiffanie Correia.

As a Care Coordinator at Sweet Home Health Center in Oregon, Tiffanie Correia and her co-workers tirelessly work to advocate for their patients, and they do what they can to reduce stigmas that surround substance use disorder. Tiffanie grew up in a family that had various degrees of mental health and substance use disorders. Her life experiences provide her with a deep level of compassion and a strong sense of purpose for the care she gives.

Typically, Tiffanie meets with patients in the clinic, at a patient’s home, or if they’re homeless, she’ll go wherever they may be. Though her primary goal is to help patients adhere to the treatment plan created by the care team, she’s very careful to assesses their additional needs. She explains, “We live and work in a rural community. Often our older adults are facing multiple issues at a time and they’re not sure what to do. When visiting a patient, the Health Navigator and I will assess and assist them with more than their medical concerns. We consider things like their social determinants of health, insurance status, etc.– things that are essential for their daily wellbeing. Our patients are very appreciative of the holistic approach we take, which not only helps our patients succeed in life, but it also brings us joy.”

Tiffanie feels fortunate to have the support of a strong team at Sweet Home Health Center, with Client Service Representatives, Health Navigators, Population Health Coordinators, Behaviorists, Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Referral Coordinators, Nurse Care Coordinators, and Medical Assistants. She is especially grateful to have the partnership of Health Navigators for her work.

As a Care Coordinator, Tiffanie is actively involved in the MAT program at Sweet Home. She was part of the original team chosen to create the program, which began in 2018 when Benton County Health Services identified the need for these services. The program is based on the Harm Reduction Model and it includes medication management, counseling sessions, and support from medical staff. “We meet patients when they are at a very low point in their lives. We do not judge them for their past. Instead, we help them to heal and plan for the future”, she says.

Tiffanie also partners with several local organizations, including the Community Court. Community Court was created as an alternative to sending people with minor violations to jail. The goal of Community Court is to identify people who face a variety of issues (i.e. homelessness, substance use disorder, mental health disorders, etc.) and connect them with available resources. If a person charged with a minor violation participates in the appointed resources, then their charges will be dropped. If they fail to comply, they will face jail time.

If Tiffanie were to offer one bit of advice to a student interested in her line of work, she would say: “You should always keep yourself educated with new trainings and opportunities to guide your work, and always focus on providing holistic, evidence-based care.” She points out that, “This is even more important when you are working against stigmas that get in the way.”

Aastasshia L. Lacy FNP-BC
Maternal and Child Health Director
CCI Health and Wellness Services
Greenbelt, MD

Finding Your “Why”

Aastasshia’s position was created just for her. Before she arrived at CCI Health and Wellness Services, there was no leadership role for the prenatal and youth programs, and no clinical oversite for OB/GYN services. Aastasshia joined the team excited to lead these programs and help them grow.

When she first began her career, Aastasshia worked as a labor and delivery nurse while studying for her NP degree. Even before finishing her degree, she was asked to work in private OB/GYN office. After that, she worked for Planned Parenthood. With experience as a teenage patient, she deeply understood the importance of community clinics. This eventually led her to seek employment with a FQHC. She explains, “Though I applied for a different position at CCI, they asked me if I would consider a brand new role as the Maternal and Child Health Director …I agreed and it turned out to be everything I was looking for.”

While there are many Maternal and Child Health Directors around the country with nursing degrees, Aastasshia brings a unique array of skills and passions to her role. She’s a certified fitness professional, a health and wellness professional, and she has training in aesthetics procedures and beauty. She explains, “I function beyond nursing with the skills I love.”

By incorporating her passions, Aastasshia has made her job more engaging and beneficial for her patients. For example, she teaches fitness classes for the ACT OUT nutrition and fitness program targeting kids age 6-16. She and her team know how to boost the confidence of their young clients and help families learn about good nutrition and exercise without judgement.

Aastasshia also appreciates that CCI hires people who reflect the community so they can more easily connect with the families they serve. She believes this is a powerful reason behind the success of her team’s programs. Also, she credits the evidence-based models she uses for programs like the Centering program for prenatal mothers, which proves to decrease health disparities for their African American and Hispanic patients. She shares a story: “Right before COVID I had a prenatal patient in my Centering group and, unfortunately, I had to tell her she was HIV positive. Because I had bonded with her and her husband from the Centering group, we were able to quickly offer her crisis management services, an HIV care referral, and help her stay on top of her medications… I got to experience what she went through, and it gave me a sense of “my why” I stay in community health. — It’s easy to get burned-out in this field, but the relationships we develop are priceless.“

Aastasshia recognizes that most nurses who work in FQHC’s already have strong values, care for others, and recognize their “why?” is for their patients. She points out that community-based care comes with many obstacles and frustrations that are out of your control. She recommends a big dose of flexibility to new nurses and shares, “When you know your “why” and understand the community you serve, it allows you to not get stressed about things out of your control. Stay passionate, give yourself grace and patience, and use your creativity – because this type of work really makes a difference in people’s lives.”