Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Literacy at Camp?

Camp Literacy?

I just returned from a wonderful week away at a “religious” camp for families. As a Unitarian Universalist I know I live out the values daily in my work and family life, but wondered what it would be like to have fun with 200 other people with the same values. As a youth director for 2 years in my own congregation and knowing that this Pennsylvania camp called UUMAC needed a youth coordinator, I thought it was time I tried this long awaited “vacation” – working or not.

I purposely left my business cards and patient safety brochures at home. I was not going to talk about patient safety nor was I going to think about work for a week. In the weeks leading up to UUMAC, I found myself staying up late planning for the youths projects and getting lost in this new plan I had for myself.

Even before I arrived at UUMAC I was hearing terms I never heard before. I had to prepare for “vespers” which was the evening worship or “Night Owls” which I learned real fast about the all night partying that went on. “Show Case” was the end of the week entertainment when all the workshops put on a show of their work, songs, writing or just fun stuff about the people in the group.

When I realized that I didn’t know what some of these terms meant, or didn’t know what to do with them such as “bridging” where I knew that the teens were going to adulthood but didn’t know how it affected me, I asked questions. Some of the young people seemed to like to explain to me what it all meant. Others would sometimes shrug. It reminded me constantly about how we must all be willing to share information to grow.

The religion of Unitarian Universalism must often be explained so others will be interested and participate. But it kept reminding me about my work and the effort it takes for people who work in medical care to explain to their patients important, often life saving information.

Each time I asked a question, and received a thoughtful explanation, I didn’t feel the need to label myself. But yet the term
health literacy has taken on a life of it’s own when it should be part of our regular communication between people. As I look back at the willingness of people to share information at a camp or in our daily life, I wonder why it becomes so complicated for this to happen in healthcare.

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