Street medicine is a radical idea, but not a new one.
As a discipline it has been practiced around the world in various forms and fashions for well over 20 years. The roots of street medicine lie in the practice of expressing empathy and supporting self-efficacy to build health care around the individual.
Street medicine takes healthcare directly to a group of people who have been largely excluded from our system of organized healthcare.
We start by announcing ourselves as “Portland Street Medicine” when approaching an individual or camp.
Our outreach teams are easily identified by the Portland Street Medicine logo on their jackets and the stethoscopes around their necks. It’s exciting to enter a camp and be immediately recognized, welcomed by broad smiles and hails of “Hey! It’s our medical team! They’re back!”
We carry backpacks filled with basic medical supplies and medications. In another bag we have the ever-popular comfort supplies, distributing much needed socks, hand warmers, toilet paper, toiletries, tampons, and even TriMet tickets. Much of our time is spent providing basic acute care services such as treatment for cuts, sprains, wounds, and minor conditions. We also help manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. We triage conditions requiring immediate treatment and connect patients to same-day services or even emergency services if needed.
When we encounter patients with more complex conditions we connect them with specialty care, seeking a coordinated and well communicated hand-off from the street clinician to the clinic clinician.