Could you tell me about your IRL project and your role within it?
I am from Team Philly in Cohort 4. I work with Ashlee Murray, MD, MPH and Melissa Dichter, PhD, MSW who are both researchers. I’m the community partner. We are looking at how we can improve the connection between pediatric medical providers and families who identify as experiencing domestic violence. We’re trying to develop a feedback tool where survivors would be able to have their voices heard in the screening and referral process, where they can say, “I was referred by my doctor, but I didn’t appreciate how they spoke to me about it,” or, “It was very impactful how the nurse spoke to me, and she was so kind, and that worked well.” The provider will be able to take that information. Hopefully it will improve their screening practices.
My agency has a survivor’s network. I’m able to connect our researchers with survivors who have been through a counseling program and ask for their feedback. I’m also able to connect with survivors as they’re experiencing things. If a survivor says they had an awesome experience and they want to tell their providers, that’s information I can bring to the researchers to inform our process.
It sounds like you also use the community-engaged research model in your day-to-day work.
I love that the IRL program talks about that. We were working in the emergency department, trying to get a new screening project off the ground. We were saying, “Please screen. If you have some time, could you please do it?” A nurse came up to us and was like, “Actually the culture here is if you want us to do it, you have to tell us it’s important and we need to do it.” In another hospital, the culture is very much like, “We would love it if you screened” and they’re like, “Ok.” What the nurse told us was very true. It’s a different culture.
It’s communicating with the people on the ground and asking them, “What do you think your strengths are in this hospital, and what can we lean on? What can we pull from?” People are very clear about what they’re doing well. That’s what we want. It’s trusting what people are saying they need from us and then working with that.
On an IRL survey, we asked, “What question do you wish people asked you more often?” You answered, “I wish people asked more about the resilience of our community. If so, they would learn about the vibrance and beauty our community members have found in sharing their healing journeys with us and with each other.” Could you speak more to that?
What survivors experience is incredibly difficult, but we also see joy in the healing process. Like when somebody goes through the counseling process, and for the first time they’re able to make a decision. “I’m going to go buy a new shirt for myself.”
Other times we see it with their children. Their children were struggling after witnessing violence at home. Then their kids start making friends again at school because of skills they’ve learned working with one of our counselors.
A lot of times when I say I’m a domestic violence counselor, people are like, “Oh wow. That’s hard” or, “That must be sad.” Honestly, most days when I leave work I’m overjoyed I got to be part of somebody’s journey. Our clients know how to tap into their own human spirit. Always our clients are saying they don’t want to be defined by what’s been done to them.
What haven’t I asked you yet?
The thing that always comes up for me is to encourage people to trust community partners. I have to lean into trusting my own community partners. Starting from a place of curiosity is what I like to encourage people to do.
To ask people what it’s like to be them is a good place to start. We’ve found success in that. Often people feel overlooked. When somebody sits and asks in a way that makes it clear you want to know what it’s like to be them, people feel heard. I love that IRL leaves space for that and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation overall.
What does trusting the community partner look like for you?
Trusting that at the core we’re all caring about the same people. For the folks doing the work on the ground, if they say, “That’s not gonna work” or, “I recommend that it’s this way,” then you try to make it work that way. Figure out not how to make the community adapt to you but the other way around.
Listen to Jessica’s full interview below.
Jessica Palardy is an IRL fellow from Cohort 2019-2022 of Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL). To learn more about Jessica and Team Philadelphia, read about their research project: Centering Survivor Voices to Improve Medical-Community Partnerships Addressing Intimate Partner Violence.
Interviews conducted, transcribed and condensed by Maria Bertrand, MPH ‘21. [Jessica Palardy reviewed and approved this blog.]
The views represented in this post are those of the authors, not of Interdisciplinary Research Leaders or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.