Empath Health is committed to serving everyone in our community who needs us. Karen Davis-Pritchett joined Empath Health as the new community outreach specialist last summer.
In this Q&A, Karen discusses her education background, insights of the African-American community’s beliefs and values about care, and her initiatives partnering with and educating the community about Empath Health’s network of care.
Q&A with Karen Davis-Pritchett on working with the African-American community:
1. When did you start at Empath Health?
2. What’s your professional background?
I worked in the Pinellas County School system, teaching English in the 8th, 10th and 11th grades and doing Title I training and outreach with parents and teachers. I have a Master’s degree in psych counseling from Howard University and an undergraduate degree in English education from Florida State University.
3. Why did you transition to community outreach?
Being born and raised in St. Pete, I wanted to have an impact here. I’m part of the Welch family, which has a long history in Pinellas County in education, ministry and support of community organizations, including Suncoast Hospice. In my new role, I get to educate the community and continue my family’s work and legacy.
4. In which areas will you work?
All of Pinellas County. I’ll first concentrate in south county, particularly in the St. Pete churches, because that’s where I’m from and have made connections.
5. What do you think are some of the major feelings and barriers of hospice within the African-American community?
I think with African Americans in the St. Pete community there’s generally a lack of knowledge about hospice services and advantages. There’s a fear of talking about death and equating hospice to death rather than a support. Some feel they’re going to lose control over making their healthcare decisions, that hospice is going to come in and take over. I also think doctors don’t always talk about hospice and that’s a huge deficit.
6. Many people today are caregiving for family, however might not see themselves as caregivers. What do you think?
Many younger people don’t identify with the word caregiver. A lot of people say they’re caring for a brother, sister, aunt or other family member. When they think of caregiver, they think of medical staff, such as a nurse or doctor. We need to educate on who caregivers are and help them see themselves as caregivers.
7. What do you hope to accomplish in your work?
Part of my mission is to build relationships and see that we’re walking with our community, supporting not just patients but their entire families through a team approach to care. I want to educate that we’re not just hospice, we have home health,
PACE, advance care planning, counseling, support groups, and other services. Historically, counseling has not been embraced in our community. Almost all of us have had experiences of trauma or loss in our lives and Empath Health has services and resources available to help.
I plan to work with faith, civic and other community groups as well as families across the community to find out and respond to their needs and be a presence. These are wonderful opportunities to have conversations with people so they can discover the truth about our services and alleviate their fears.
When talking with people in the community, I’m there to let everyone know we care about them and their families. I value their input and hope they’ll see me as an advocate; someone whom they trust and know will listen.
8. How do you plan to reach the community?
Our center for community has developed a Traditions diversity outreach plan focusing on engagement with the African-American, Hispanic and Jewish communities. We want all those we serve to feel like we’re part of their communities. We want to create care experiences that honor, revere and respect their heritages and traditions.
In my outreach, I’ll provide tours of Suncoast Hospice Care Centers and Suncoast PACE, so people can get a feel for our compassionate care.
I’ve formed a Care Council of individuals representing faith, community, medical and law enforcement organizations. The council members will be my eyes and ears in the community, telling me what they’re hearing, connecting me with families in need of services and identifying potential speaking opportunities for me. I’ll help give them the knowledge about our services so they can be ambassadors in the community.
I’ll also facilitate Care Conversations, an informal listening forum to explore what the community is thinking and feeling. They’ll be a safe place for people to tell the stories of their care experiences. We want them to have a voice and for us to learn the areas we may need to improve.
9. What has your experience been like so far at Empath Health?
It has been really inspirational and positive. From the time I walked through the door here, I’ve felt a culture of compassion and connection. I want that same feeling in our community.
Learn more about or request Empath Health services on our website.
Join the community for celebration, remembrance and education on February 6 at the Legacy Luncheon at our St. Pete community service center.