The Provide Experience: Becoming the Go-To Referrer


The Provide Experience: Becoming the Go-To Referrer

Posted by Jenny O'Donnell in Stories 11 Aug 2016

by Sara Kaye Larson, Provide Storyteller and Content Marketing Officer

Sara Kaye Larson

Sara Kaye Larson, Provide Storyteller and Content Marketing Officer

I came on board as the Provide Storyteller just over six months ago. When I got the job I felt like I won the nonprofit work lottery. I was so impressed with the way Provide works to increase access to abortion care. Our program acknowledges the barriers and challenges surrounding this topic in different health care systems as well as the personal and social concerns of the people that work in these systems.  Our approach to increasing access to safe, nonjudgmental abortion care is centered around the health and social service workers that serve women facing unintended pregnancy. As the Storyteller, I know this center is where the stories are and where we can open up a useful conversation. To get to know these workers, I’m starting a monthly blog series featuring people who have participated in our Abortion Referrals Trainings. It’s a chance to learn more about the people we train, how our trainings support their work, and hopefully create a space where other health and social service workers can recognize themselves and learn about how others deal with the rewards and challenges of working with abortion referrals.

The one thing I hear the most often when talking to our State Coordinators is about how geographic areas and healthcare systems have different attitudes surrounding abortion. Sometimes the coordinators are met with more skepticism from some participants than others, but they always try and keep the avenues of conversation open. Most of the time the people attending trainings go in with an open mind, even if the culture of their workplace makes it more difficult to talk about abortion. I recently spoke with Tiffany, a participant who is no different.

Tiffany gets on the phone with me in the early morning before her workday takes over. She tells me how she keeps busy in her position as a Peer Support Specialist at an all-female substance abuse recovery center in Louisa, Kentucky. Tiffany is impressed that the Provide staff trekked out to rural Louisa to train their staff.

She confesses that she was also a little surprised.  She says, “Most of the people around here and some of my coworkers are very strongly against abortion, which is very sad because we deal with a lot of women who have had abortions and they are very much alone in their experience.”  From her standpoint working in substance abuse, she says this attitude can make recovery more difficult because women can have a hard time finding someone to talk with about their experience and it adds to their guilt and shame.

But just when I was expecting to hear a tale of stoned-faced coworkers sitting at conference tables not participating, she tells me that the training was excellent– that it got everyone to open up. “I felt like it went awesome,” she says. It turns out that Tiffany does a lot of trainings and presentations in her own work and is always looking at how other people train. “I seriously could not think of how they could have done a better job. I felt like they did a great job of being really respectful and careful.”

Tiffany says the best part of the material is the idea of presenting women experiencing an unintended pregnancy with options. “Right now we don’t talk about any options when a woman is pregnant. It’s just, ‘you’re going to have a baby and that’s it,’” she says. “I just feel really good about having all the information now.”

I ask about what her coworkers thought of the training. She says that “they asked a ton of questions!” and that they even asked for materials at the end of the training. She doesn’t think that most of her coworkers will be comfortable referring for abortion, but she mentions that the trainers explained that some facilities identify people that would be comfortable giving out the information and then send clients to that worker. Tiffany now sees herself being one of those people that others will go to.

She explains, “I just think it helped me a lot… I’m pretty open-minded, but I would absolutely say going into it and coming out, I’m definitely more open-minded. I’m now more equipped and I think I would be a good person to provide referrals. Before I would have had no idea what to do, and now I’m confident that I can make the client feel comfortable.”

We talk a little more about how being able to give the client all of her options really helps in her job, but then she has to get back to work. We say goodbye and she’s off for another busy day, working the same job but with a new important role—someone who is comfortable giving abortion referrals.