The NIU Health Advocacy Clinic is back for the Spring 2015 semester! At the end of last semester, we lost one student to graduation and studying for the bar exam. However, we had two students join our ranks for a total of four at the clinic this semester.
It is very exciting to see our clinic grow and evolve. When I started in August, the clinic had just started taking clients. It took a while before each of us got our first client. We had to finalize procedures once we received referrals from Aunt Martha’s, which was exciting as we were building things from the ground up. This January, just one semester later, we came back from winter break and jumped right in to multiple client referrals and interviews. Our new students were given clients on their first day at clinic and were able to observe and participate in client interviews right away. They were able to learn about cases that we had already been working on and provide input in case strategy.
I think having new students has been a growing experience, which has allowed me to view the clinic and our practices through new light. It has been very interesting to evaluate the clinic’s policies and procedures and how they works with the transition of students. Through the last couple of weeks, we have tried to bring the new students up to speed on what we do for preparing for client interviews. This includes organizing forms for the interview and figuring out which questions to ask and other policies that we developed last semester. While explaining our practices, I have been able to better understand them myself. It seems clear that one must explain something in order to really understand things. It has also made me realize how important it is for us to have a handbook, and we need to make it a priority to finish ours this semester. For example, I was asked by one of our new students how we arrange our files, and I realized that that is really something that should be written down so that all of them are done in uniform.
It is very fun and exciting to see our policies evolving. When we started this spring semester, our chart for social security was something that I had used for one person applying for Social Security. With having two other students creating these charts for different clients, I have been able to see and hear their ideas for improving them for our clients in the future. Seeing the evolution of a sheet I made once into something that is really beneficial for our clients who are applying for social security is really exciting. The young ladies that we have joining our clinic have great ideas, and I am excited to see how they help shape our clinic and make a difference.