Project Description

The Key to Our Chi

Melissa, Operations Manager, Fourth Street Clinic

The alarm goes off at 6 am. Coffee, tai chi to get centered, then out the door. This routine is just a mental warm-up for what awaits. Fourth Street Clinic opens at 8 am on most days, Monday through Friday. Before the doors open and patients file into the waiting room, Melissa matches every provider with a medical assistant (MA), ensures coverage for every appointment and walk-in, and creates schedules for MAs, providers, external providers, and volunteers. All of this is called Clinic Operations and Clinic Flow. Melissa, Fourth Street Clinic’s Clinic Operations Manager, brings her chi from home to the office. At 7 am, she prances into the clinic and begins orchestrating the day’s every move for every clinical staff member. She is calculated and with her smile, good humor, and commanding presence, she swiftly turns chaos into calm. Besides managing clinic flow, Melissa provides diabetes counseling, FIT testing, training and education for medical assistants and nurses, and on top it all, she too, is a nurse.

High stress, high anxiety, never a dull moment? Not a problem. “Even though I am making some life or death decisions every day, it all boils down to balance and flow, and drawing boundaries really helps too!” Melissa knows a thing or two about balance. On Thursday afternoons, she teaches the Fourth Street Clinic patients Tai Chi and Yoga. She also teaches wellness classes three times a week, which includes, healthy living, nutrition consults, diabetes education, and diabetes education in Spanish. “You know, these classes not only help our patients but they help me!” In addition to traditional medicine, patients, especially diabetic patients, need education and continual management. The wellness and education drop-in classes help keep patients on top of their ailments. “I know I make a difference in patients’ lives but it’s challenging—you just want to help everyone get their lives back. It’s about helping them get their issues and everything under control.”

One of Melissa’s patients with diabetes also suffers from severe COPD and heart problems. When he first started seeing Melissa his life was in disarray, he was chronically homeless and knocking on death’s door. Melissa watched his life transform with diabetes education and the wellness classes. Today, he is housed and continues to come to Melissa’s classes every week. “That is the sort of thing that makes me come in every day…I love our patients. These are MY people!” Melissa has always had a knack for taking care of the issue-ridden patients. When she started as a RN at the University of Utah, she was always the one to unburden the so-called kooks and erratic patients. “I can be blunt and upfront while at the same time I can be empathetic and jestful.” There seems to be a theme here—balance.

But just when all was quiet and calm, Melissa’s pager piped in to tell her she had a patient waiting. Melissa, the flow master, went back to crafting that chi for Fourth Street Clinic.

It’s people like Melissa that make our community great!