More Than a Job

Going Beyond Medicine™ with Mitch Handrich
Nurse Practitioner, New Orleans

Just out of high school, Mitch Handrich was doing odd jobs on the gulf coast of Mississippi when he decided to enroll in nursing school; it was the best decision of his life. This was in the very early years of HIV, when providers were refusing to care for patients with AIDS and knew little about the disease. Being a gay man with HIV, Mitch thought, “those are my people!” So straight out of nursing school, Mitch went to New Orleans to work at Charity Hospital, where caring for people with HIV became much more than a job.

There, he met some nurse practitioners who inspired him to become one after about 20 years into his career. “I’m glad I did that because I found out that I can have much more of an impact on the members I care for. It also helps my newly diagnosed members who have HIV and think it’s a death sentence when I tell them I’ve had it longer than they’ve been alive! That gives them great hope for a long, normal life.”

Mitch had always been attracted to the patient-first model of care. “I wanted to go out of my way to meet the patient where they are and try to get to know them as a whole person, not just a diagnosis.”  When he heard about AbsoluteCare and what we stand for, he said, “This is exactly how I want to deliver care. AbsoluteCare really meets the member where they are, giving them the care that they want in the way they want it delivered. We don’t try to change the member to meet our rules and requirements, but we change the way we deliver care to adapt to the member.”

It’s important, Mitch believes, to treat members with dignity and respect. “It doesn’t matter what the member looks or acts or smells like. We treat them as human beings, and they get to see us as family and learn to trust us and they know that they aren’t going to be judged.

Likewise, he believes the same about his team. He treats them as equals and believes their voices matter when taking care of members and developing their care plans. It’s no surprise, then, that his personal motto is “All persons are unique individuals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. All are equal.

If Mitch could change one thing about healthcare, it would be the model, which is designed for the average person’s needs, and care models are standards into which providers fit their patients. Instead, Mitch says, we should “make the members the real drivers of their healthcare. Try to find out what they are going through and look at the person sitting in front of you and see their whole lives. Find out what they go through in their home lives. What did they have to go through to be able to make an appointment to see the provider today?”

Mitch was appointed to the Louisiana Commission on HIV and Hep C Education, Prevention, and treatment in 2020 by Governor Edwards, served as Vice Chair in 2022, and is now Interim Chair for 2023. He has received many awards for his service in the field, but his most cherished was an honor bestowed on him by POZ magazine as one of the top 100 people in the U.S. making a difference in HIV care.