A Reflection on My Experience as a Volunteer

The first patient I met moved me to tears. She was sitting in the lobby by herself. My volunteer coordinator said, “She is always here, the nursing staff almost always just put her here and leave her, shoving a day-old newspaper in her hand.” The newspaper was covered in grease and food crumbs. She had stale popcorn and food stains on her shirt. My volunteer coordinator continued, “When I came here to throw her a tea party a couple months ago, her hair was tied back in a blue latex rubber glove.”

It looked like she did not have a shower that day. When I introduced myself, I could tell she was not all there. She was having trouble following the conservation, but I learned so much about her: She was from Switzerland, she could speak three different languages, she has a son and a daughter, she loves music and walks. Unfortunately, no one takes her on walks, since she stays in the same spot. So the next time I visited, I made it my mission to wheel her around the nursing home while she listened to music. I wanted to honor her legacy and her life.

The second patient I met was more talkative and could hold a conservation. I talked with her for 45 minutes about a variety of topics, like her brother-in-law in Billy Haley’s band, her love for country music, her daughter’s cats, and her passion for drawing. She talked about winning a gold medal in the senior Olympics for walking and her passion for sports and running. I also found out she was amazing at bingo! She was 91, but she conversed so well, and I had the best time listening to her story.

This experience has helped me confirm that medicine is the path I want to follow. After meeting my two patients and hearing their stories, I want to be able to honor their legacy. I want to become a doctor who cares about all their patients, who does not see them as another person they have to take care of, but someone who listens to their needs. I want to become a doctor to care for patients in life and in death – to try and make medicine more personal and positive. I want to show my patients that medicine does not always have to be white walls, hospital gowns and beds, beeping, or waiting for hours for a nurse to take you to the restroom. I want to show my patients that medicine is a friendly face, a warm smile, a helping hand, and a person that wants to help prolong a person’s legacy. I want to go into medicine because I want to help people, offer them hope, and honor their legacy.