Cultural Collisions and Reconciliation

Throughout this year, I got the opportunity to visit patients in a hospice, meet families, nurses and others who help to make the hospice run smoothly. However, my most meaningful relationship was when I was interacting with my second patient. Since we shared a similar background in where we’ve grown up and our culture, it was fairly easy for us to have smooth interactions and understand boundaries. She also felt safe enough to open up to me about how she was feeling about her experience with being in a hospice. Though I cannot speak for whether I was a good help in helping her process her feelings, she continued to speak openly and listened sincerely to any insight I may have had.
This experience of being a volunteer in a hospice was very profound and helped me to further think about my path in medicine. Although I had always known I wanted to be a geriatrician, I was never quite sure what the experience would be like. This experience made me realize that a lot of the care that an elderly person may need might not only be medical but can really just be providing social activities and being empathetic. Both patients that I visited throughout this year often complained of having nothing to do except waiting around to take medicine and talking with other patients. Because of this experience, I feel that I am able to find more ways to make a person’s end-of-life process be a much more pleasant one rather than boring and depressing.
Though medicine is a very important part of treatment and healing, it is not everything. Medicine may help to treat the body but there is an emotional element involved. If doctors only cared about medicine, less patients would feel safe to get treatment. This is due to the fact that doctors only see patients as an illness instead of a person. People have dreams and aspirations and they want to feel respected. Without this aspect, doctor-patient trust will deteriorate. Being a volunteer has helped me understand how important simple gestures can go along way in doctor-patient interactions.
In the future, I still plan on becoming a geriatrician. However, I am now interested in healthcare policies that affect the elderly. Pleasant experiences with the doctor can only do so much if insurance cannot pay for treatment or if families are unable to take care of a loved one. Instead of just closing my mind off to one possible career, I have decided to look at the many possibilities that enable me to help someone.