It takes a village to pull off a women’s wellness weekend
How often do we all find ourselves clambering to catch up with our annual wellness visits? Now consider if you were working multiple jobs and lacked time to make it to the doctor; if you were an undocumented resident and English wasn’t your first language; or if you were currently homeless and jobless, with no insurance at all. Imagine how hard it would be to prioritize those vital health checks on your seemingly endless list of things to do just to survive.
That’s the purpose behind The Floating Hospital’s bi-annual Women’s Wellness Weekend (this year on March 5 and Oct. 22). For the last decade, the community event has prioritized women’s health, understanding the complicated and competing needs in the lives of women experiencing homelessness. Organizers of the event also understand that along with healthcare, patients need some self care, so we work with partners to offer a nice dose of pampering and family fun for The Floating Hospital’s patient community. But, to pull it off so seamlessly takes the commitment, coordination, and hard work of multiple departments, volunteers and generous donors.
“Because they’re waiting to be screened, the idea is for it to not just be another medical thing, but to make it enjoyable,” says Sreeta Quintana, director of clinic operations and who oversees coordination of the wellness events across the clinic’s departments, from registration to transportation. Quintana also coordinated external partners, radiology providers, and a slew of volunteers and generous donors.
A day of medical care and self care
The day-long clinic provides up to 40 mammograms and 20 pap smears, along with other important wellness checks and balances, such as blood pressure testing, counseling on contraception and quitting smoking and education on healthy nutrition, all of which are interwoven with feel-good selfcare options. “So yes, they’re getting screenings, but also extra things, like massages, manicures, their makeup and hair done,” says Quintana. Other feel-good activities have included yoga, painting, listening to music, and even dancing.
Kestia Nanzo, a patient attending the event, described her experience. “I’ve been a patient of The Floating Hospital since 2018 and came here for my mammogram. I like the setting and the vibe … I especially appreciate the interactions of the staff with the patients—the way they recognize your face. So often you can go to places in your community that you affiliate with and sometimes people don’t recognize you. It means something when they do. The Floating Hospital is on a different level than most places.”
For patients like Shauna Tippins, the event serves as an essential check in, given her family history. “I came here for a mammogram because cancer runs in my family. My brother had colon cancer and he just beat it. I’ve been with The Floating Hospital for 4-5 years and … I really feel like I’m being cared for here. The doctors, they give me good knowledge about what’s going on with me. They detected my fibroids on time.”
Preparation for the event is months in the making and begins with Quintana and others tapping into resources far and wide to serve as many patients as possible. From the gorgeous lunches (with extra left over for takeaway) donated by The Floating Hospital supporter and restaurateur Chef Maria Loi, to finding and coordinating the donation of new clothes, makeup, and personal-care items, to creating fliers, posters, balloons, and other promotional materials, to staffing enough patient navigators, it takes many hands, minds and hearts to make the event a success.