June 27, 2022

Meet Kayla Bouchey 

Community Health Worker

As a community health worker, Kayla helps patients and communities in their adoption of healthy behaviors through service coordination and advocacy. For instance, she may conduct health in-community outreach, coordinate resources, like social work, PT and OT, provide social support and counseling, and facilitate health education programs in coordination with other St. Louis-area organizations.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Pomona, California and moved to Peoria, Illinois when I was about four years old. I stayed there until midway through the recession, when we came to Columbia, MO. I spent my high school and most of my college years in Columbia. I came to St Louis in 2017.

What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?

I’ve been a community health worker for three years and have been doing similar work in the field for about five. My background is in occupational therapy (OT) with a focus on community-based OT. I came from a federally qualified health center (FQHC) and really loved working with my team and serving my patients. I was wanting more of a challenge and opportunity and when I heard about this opportunity to build a Community Health program for the WashU Orthopedics, I quickly jumped on it.

I knew I wanted to be an agent of change so being on this journey is very exciting. I look forward to serving this population of patients while building a sustainable program for our providers.

How do you support patients? 

As a community health worker, I’m basically a patient advocate and liaison between the patient, social organizations, and healthcare providers. I assist patients in finding resources or applying for resources to assist with anything that may be a social determinant of health, such as transportation, housing, substance use disorder, lack of insurance, DME, and more while also being a peer counselor and a guide through the healthcare system. I’m a partner with the patient in producing a plan to find solutions to the barriers they face while building capacity in these patients to eventually be able to do these things on their own or no longer be in a situation where they need to worry about social issues in their everyday lives regarding survival. The goal is going from surviving to thriving. I also advocate for patients to their healthcare providers, families, social entities, landlords and more to make sure that artificial barriers aren’t holding patients back. I connect with patients by literally meeting them where they are, whether that be in the community or at their appointments. I put a focus on cultural awareness and uplifting communities through service and policy change.

How do you support physicians? 

I support physicians by assisting them in providing excellent care. Patients are less likely to – or are sometimes unable to – participate in their healthcare if they are focused on when their next meal is going to be, or how they are going to get home from an appointment, or even where they are going to sleep that night. By helping patients eliminate these barriers, patients are more likely to show up to their appointments, have faster healing times, stay out of the ED and all-in-all save providers time, money, and resources.

I also work directly with providers to ensure that my assistance with the patients is helping the provider reach the goals that they and the patient have in place. I assist with patient coordination by being a liaison between healthcare providers and making sure their patients are making it to appointments.

What aspect of your work are you most looking forward to?    

I am most looking forward to shaking up the system and eliminating the barriers there are to healthcare here in St Louis and at WashU. I can’t wait to get processes in place to be able to provide reliable transportation for our patients, ensure they have therapy after surgeries, ensure they have the chance to be insured, and the opportunities to reach their goals. I look forward to growing this program and showing other departments the value of Community Health Workers to make a better healthcare system and in turn, a better St Louis.

What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

My favorite thing to do outside of work is hiking and camping with my husband and dog! We try to get one hike in each week. I also love snuggling with my pets and binge-watching TV shows. Spending time with my family is very important to me, so any chance I get to do that, whether it be a relaxing weekend at home or a weekend camping on the river is precious to me and my favorite thing to do. Yoga is very important to me too, to be able to reconnect with myself and my vision.

If you weren't in healthcare, what would you like to be doing?

If I wasn’t in healthcare, I would be working in justice reform. My community-based OT work was with individuals incarcerated and previously incarcerated, and it sparked a passion in me to help these people who often have severe Social Determinant of Health issues and lack resources, which put them in jail or prison in the first place. It sparked a keen awareness for racial equity as well. The research shows, as well as my time on the project demonstrated, that when supportive services are in place, recidivism rates decrease rapidly and people are able to go back to living normal lives without turning to “crime.”

Anything else you’d like to share?

My husband and I love to travel! We have big plans of traveling the world, but for now it’s mostly just been the states (over half of them). Between the two of us, we’ve explored Europe, Aruba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Belize, and the US Virgin Islands - we can’t wait for more travel. We have 2 cats named Minnie and Price, and our dog Maya who are all rescues or “accidents”. We also just got a puppy named Louisa.

Gardening and houseplants are a very big part of my life, too. I try to find joy wherever I go, which can sometimes be hard for me given the position I work in, but I believe everyone should have equal access to health care and relief services, and through community health, one day this will become a reality.

Learn why patient's choose Washington University Orthopedicsrequest an appointment with a specialist online or call (314) 514-3500.

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