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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.

photo montage and quote
photo montage with quote

A team effort ensure smooth sailing

Outreach, of course, is key. For Ivan Romero, director of the Families in Temporary Housing outreach program, and his team, it begins by getting the word out to shelter and safe-house case managers and project directors. “We are focused on women living in challenging conditions in our community and in our city,” he says. “At our event, they can see a doctor, have their annual gynecological checkup, talk to the health educators, be part of support groups and behavioral services, and get referrals to our other services. It’s a completely holistic approach.”

For Director of Registration Services Lysandra Cruz-Allen, the focus is on getting patients registered for the event and helping them to navigate the often-confusing landscape of health insurance. “We reach out and find out if they have or need insurance and, if they’re not a patient of ours, how to get the proper information to their primary care provider,” she says. “Then we’re making sure to help them gather any documentation they might have, whether they’re insured or uninsured, a citizen, green card holder, or non-American status. My team helps them fill out paperwork and understand the terminology. We find out when their last mammogram was, their history of health, and explain one on one anything they don’t understand.”

Valerie Concepcion, medical assistant supervisor and clinic flow manager, is responsible for ensuring there’s enough staff on hand to help the patients through multiple medical screenings, and for ensuring that they’re able to clearly communicate their issues, questions and concerns. Of her 20 or so medical assistants, about a dozen are fluent in Spanish, French and Korean. “A lot of my team are from different backgrounds and have family members whose first language isn’t English. They make the patients feel more comfortable opening up to a health provider,” she says. “ It’s so empowering for them to say I did my duty and helped someone in need and gave to a community that gets lost in the shuffle.”

Thanks to layers of hard work, unwavering dedication and generosity throughout The Floating Hospital’s community, Women’s Wellness Weekend continues to bring relief, respite and education to the most vulnerable among us.

“It’s a great feeling to know we have a magnificent team who together work to help the women in our community from all backgrounds to take care of their health and to realize they are special,” says Quintana.

Donations for our upcoming Women’s Wellness Weekend on March 5 will directly support women in need. Please contact Sreeta Quintana with questions about in-kind donations, squintana@thefloatinghospital.org, and Ellen Barker about institutional or individual giving: ebarker@thefloatinghospital.org

— Amy Zavatto

Since 1866, The Floating Hospital has been the largest provider of healthcare and education to families living with homelessness. Based in Long Island City, it provides comprehensive primary, dental and behavioral-health services, and health-education to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.

In 2021, The Floating Hospital moved into a new modern main clinic in Long Island City, and continues to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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