Registered Nurse, Jessica Farnsworth, discusses how her compassion originated at a young age and how it affects the way she serves the refugee community. She shares about new initiatives with her team at CHC and the goals she’s looking forward to accomplishing.
“I can’t imagine something happening here today and we have to pick up our children and flee. Like what do you do, where do you go, how terrifying is that,” said Jessica Farnsworth, Registered Nurse at Community Health Care, Inc. (CHC) in Rock Island.
Jessica was introduced to the refugee community when she joined the CHC RI team in January of 2023. She describes her initial reaction as having a deep empathy for the refugee families.
“My heart ached for them. I was trying to wrap my head around what these patients had been through. I can’t even begin to imagine what life was like for them, it hurts my soul,” Jessica said.
Prior to her moving to the RI CHC location, she knew that “as an organization, we were taking care of refugees,” and that they were community members.
However, she came to a deeper understanding for the lives of refugees after she began working as the Public Health/ Refugee Nurse at CHC RI. It didn’t take long for the team to recognize her “compassion and drive to give back.”
Jessica shared that the heart of compassion was born very early on in her life.
The birth of compassion
“I grew up poor, we didn’t have a lot. I had an aunt who helped and showed me a lot of things in life. It made me want to go into health care and give back to those who are marginalized,” Jessica said. “I don’t look down on them, I look at them and say, ‘how I can help?’.”
At the age of 14, Jessica started working in the school cafeteria and would work at McDonald’s after school. By the age of 16, she found herself pursuing her passion by becoming a certified nurses’ aide.
“I’d work second shift after school, I knew that health care and taking care of people is what I am most passionate about,” Jessica said.
“You can see people at their most vulnerable times in life. In that moment, you could be the guiding light in their life mentally, emotionally, and physically,” she continued.
A void to fill
With the growth of refugee arrivals in the Quad Cities community, Jessica’s desire to give back had only gotten stronger. And the team at CHC RI agreed that something needed to be done.
CHC RI Director of Nursing, Stefani Stickrod, saw that the refugee community had a need, so the team “came together to figure out what to do.”
Without hesitation, CHC partnered with WRQC to introduce World Relief Day, or as WRQC calls it, CHC Day. These days are specially reserved for new refugee arrivals to go to the clinic and get health screenings at no charge and establish care with a primary health care provider.
Stefani initiated this service in December of 2022. In January of 2023 Stefani chose Jessica as the nurse to lead and coordinate the program.
“They felt that I would be the perfect person for the role. They recognized my compassion and drive for the mission and what this program takes and needs,” Jessica said.
World Relief Day takes place at least once or twice a month, depending on the number of arrivals.
“Our providers like to keep the number of patients seen per day at 15. This allows them to tackle what issues they have, making sure we don’t rush, especially with translation,” Jessica said.
Sealed with a smile
Although leading World Relief Day is a huge accomplishment for Jessica, she shared that the “simple things” mean the most.
“I’ll give an example. I saw a refugee patient yesterday, to see the happiness on the face of the dad telling me they are successful, paying their own bills, have their driver’s license. To see that they are making it, the joy, that I think is the best part,” she said.
With much compassion and consideration, Jessica always tries to put herself in the situation of the refugee families.
“So that’s why I want to do this because the refugee patients deserve to have the life that we all as Americans are afforded, they are human. Nobody wants to suffer,” she continued.
Jessica shared that seeing a simple smile and hearing a hello from the patients is one of the biggest accomplishments for her.
“There is a family who came in February, they were not able to speak any English. Anytime the dad comes in [and] he’d say something as simple as ‘Hello, Jessica,’ he is so proud to be able to say this simple phrase. To see them learn English is heartwarming,” Jessica said.
As her patients are slowly learning English to communicate with her, she wants to do the same in return, learning the patients’ native language.
“I am learning how to speak Swahili. I will probably never be fluent, but I want to be able to tell them my name and say, ‘Welcome to America’ in their language,” she said.
Going beyond a simple ‘hello’
From LPN and RN to getting her bachelor’s and now pursuing a master’s degree to become a family practitioner, Jessica’s passion to help people remains steadfast.
The same way she has been “seeing the path to success coming to reality” for her patients, she also has lots of goals in place for herself to continue uplifting the community.
Looking forward, one of her biggest goals is to educate. “Education is key, people can’t do what they don’t know, so I really want to teach,” she said. “I feel like the biggest thing that I’d like to do within the refugee community is be someone who can provide health education and health literacy.”
Jessica’s motivation for all that she does and will continue to do is simply because of this mindset:
“It only takes a few moments of your time; the reward is worth every minute.”
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Kler Soe is the Communications Specialist at World Relief Quad Cities. She joined the team after graduating from St. Ambrose University in May of 2023 with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. As a refugee herself, she hopes to bring awareness to World Relief’s work through stories.