As we have done for the last several years, NACCHO provided several full scholarships for local health department disease intervention specialists (DIS) to attend the STD Engage conference and build expertise in STD prevention and control within a broader sexual health approach. Held November 19-22, 2019, STD Engage 2019: Innovate. Impact. Empower brought together DIS, clinic and program staff, and directors, as well as stakeholders from across the country to learn about innovations in the field and discuss how to make headway against crisis levels of STIs.
In this multi-part blog series, our scholarship recipients highlight their conference experience in their own words. This first installment features Anne Eakes, disease intervention specialist at Rutherford County Health Department in Tennessee.
Recharged. Rejuvenated. Motivated.
Working as a DIS for more than 20 years, the STD Engage 2019 conference was a time for me of recharging, rejuvenation, and motivation. As I reflect on my experiences while at the conference, there were so many educational opportunities and positive messages. However, there were two major concepts that impacted me as I return to my work in the clinic and field. First, in tying together the concepts of trauma-informed care and self-care for frontline workers and bringing these concepts back to my work place, I hope to be able to provide better care and services for clients while also combating compassion fatigue and burnout among our staff. Taking an approach that assumes that the individuals we are working with are more likely than not to have a history of trauma allows us to adopt practices that promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. In the same vein, realizing that our staff may have past traumas that spill over into the work place, and that we are also taking in the traumas of our clients on a daily basis, we have to be intentional in implementing routines and activities in our work days and weeks that allow for self-care.
Secondly, the message of emphasizing sex positivity with adolescents and young adults in our clinics and community made a big impact on me. In this session, as I reflected on the messages I received about sex while growing up, I realized how these messages sometimes impact situations I encounter with clients today. Keeping a sex-positive or sex-affirming approach helps present a message that frames healthy teen sexuality, promotes autonomy, builds positive relationships, encourages diversity, and reduces disparities. I am more aware of the language I am using while interacting with clients and am hoping to set a positive tone for their experiences in our clinics. I am striving to be more intentional in the messages I am conveying and hoping to make a positive impact on the sexual health of my clients and my community. Attending the STD Engage Conference reminded me of the reasons I chose a career in public health and has re-energized me to serve my clients, colleagues, and community better.