Patient Advocate Liaison Program impacting health care in Bowling Green

BGSU students serve as liaison between patients, staff at Falcon Health Center

Shaffer-PALS

By Meredith Troxel

Although the Patient Advocate Liaison Program (PALs) is new to Bowling Green State University, its impact on the community is ever growing.

The program, which is facilitated through the Pre-Professional Programs office, gives four to five junior- and senior-level students the opportunity to interact with patients. They serve as a liaison between patients and staff at the Falcon Health Center

PALs was launched by Dr. Jeffery Swartz, medical director of the Falcon Health Center and family medicine physician, in the Spring of 2019. Swartz wanted to create a local advocacy program that mimicked the program that he was involved in at Spartanburg Medical Center in Greenville, South Carolina.

Grace Shaffer, program coordinator for PALs, is in her first semester as coordinator and second semester participating in the program. Through PALs, students work four hours a week inside the Falcon Health Center. Students are given a list of patients to contact and want to make sure that they are engaging in self-care.

“We try to break down any barriers that are making them noncompliant,” Shaffer said. “So, whether it’s not having a ride to the office that deters them from keeping their appointments, or if they do not understand the impact of not taking their medication, we work with the pharmacists to set up a time to meet with the patient.”

Some patients are reluctant to answering the phone. Clare Spathelf, assistant director of Pre-Professional Programs, said that after realizing that a pre-med student is on the line and is there to help, patients are more likely to share their challenges and are open to gaining help and more insight.

“I am a shoulder to lean on, a sounding board, but there are some patients that thank me a million times before they hang up the phone,” Shaffer said.

PALs strives to create public good by making a healthier community and a healthier Wood County in the future. This year, students in the program are looking to call BGSU students to encourage them to visit the Falcon Health Center for a wellness visit and to receive their flu shot.

Even though the program is new and includes a selection process for students, those currently involved credit PALs for setting them up for success as medical professionals.

“It is going to make me a better physician in the end, no matter what field I go in to,” Shaffer said. “I’m going to be able to break down those barriers or at least have those barriers in mind when I have those difficult conversations with patients in the future.”