An Unexpected Exchange

There was a twinkle in Carly’s eye the moment the four of us walked into the room. It was a cold day in November and it was the first time that I had visited the Princeton Care Center. Although Carly was not a Hospice patient, she always sat in the exact same spot at the exact same table every single day, in the vicinity of a Hospice patient that our volunteer group would end up visiting throughout the year. Carly and I immediately hit it off. She was a smiley, lively woman with an incredibly sharp mind. Carly is easily the brightest of all the patients in the Princeton Care Center. Her charisma and attention to detail is blatantly obvious in the way that she discusses all the matters that occur at PCC. Her memory is flawless, and she knows just about everything about all the patients in the center.
The talks that Carly and I would have each time I visited never failed to be anything but interesting. We would talk about her first love, her family, how all the young men would chase after her, her dancing days, and much more. She was filled with endless stories that always kept me laughing but at the same time taught me so much. This is what I find most valuable about the Hospice program. I entered the program thinking that this was going to be a one-way relationship in which I benefited the patients and would receive nothing in return. Of course, I was more than accepting of that. After all, I joined because I wanted to make a difference in the patients’ lives. Retrospectively, I cannot emphasize how much I learned from the patients. The relationship was a two-way street, where I offered my insight and words of comfort to the patients but in return, they gave me incredible life advice that I had never even considered. The patients were filled with endless knowledge that I soaked up and for which I am ever grateful.
The most beneficial aspect of the Hospice program was the fact that it forced me to hit the brakes and take my life day-by-day. The pre-med track can be unbelievably stressful at times, and often times I found myself thinking ahead to think what was next in my list of commitments and responsibilities. When I was at the Hospice center, I didn’t even remotely think about my work and obligations. Sitting with the elderly made me realize how much they appreciated each day. They didn’t think ahead to see what they would be doing tomorrow or in a week, but rather they truly lived in the moment and treasured the little things. Throughout the months, I began to implement this mindset into my life. I know find myself much less stressed because I am constantly reminded of the peaceful way in which the patients live.
Medicine is often viewed as a career in which doctors heal patients. This is done through prescribing medications, surgery, and much more. However, rarely is the “bench side” aspect of medicine concerned when individuals enter the medical field. Becoming a physician is not simply about healing people but also about being a compassionate human and providing support to an individual when medical treatment cannot fully cure the individual. The Hospice program forced me to consider this different side of medicine. I believe that all students hoping to become physicians should participate in a program similar to Hospice because it offers an alternative patient-care experience.