The prospect of death has always been an unknown that has always brought about emotions of anxiety and fear for me. However, volunteering for Holisticare Hospice this past year has allowed me to view death in a different light than I once did. The different perceptions of death that I began to have were fostered by my personal interactions and conversations with my patients throughout this year. Specifically, one patient of mine reiterated many times to me her desire to die and leave this world. Initially, hearing these words was very difficult and uncomfortable for me, because I personally did not want my patient to die and even more so, I could not understand why any person with the gift of life would want to give it up. And yet, my patient helped me come to a realization in which I understood that we as individuals were at very different chapters in our lives. While I feel as though my life has just begun, for her, she was at its conclusion. To be at different stages in our long journey through life affects the way we see and anticipate death. Understanding this contrast has helped me to overcome many of the anxieties I once felt in contemplating my own inevitable death. Although I still experience a sudden rush of fear when this thought comes across my mind, I am now able to rationally separate myself from this internal visceral reaction in knowing that when I reach the conclusion of my own story, I too will have led a life that will enable me to welcome death comfortingly.
Although my hospice work has allowed me to better understand the nature of dying, and more specifically how to bring about comfort in a process that we perceive as so debilitating, it has also helped me shape my future career in medicine. Specifically, my experiences with hospice work have shaped my initial perceptions of medicine as not simply an opportunity to save lives and help others. In fact, there will often be times in which such happy endings will not occur. Furthermore, hospice work has shown me how emotionally taxing caring for another person can truly be. The once fantastical imagination I once had of what doctors and medical care takers do has changed into a much more realistic, yet more fulfilling interpretation of their work. This new understanding has caused me to somewhat alter my initial, perhaps now somewhat superficial desire, to go into the field of medicine to simply, help and save others. I have realized that my true medical passions lie not merely in treating patients and alleviating their immediate medical needs. Rather I have refocused my medical career path towards disease prevention, rather than just disease treatment.
In potentially entering the medical field, I not only want to understand and apply medical treatment, but I also want to facilitate medical discovery and disease prevention in promoting healthy living. The work that I have accomplished as a volunteer for Holisticare Hospice has not only shaped my own personal perceptions of the intersection of life and death through medicine, but it has also shaped how I want to contribute to the always evolving field of medicine in the future.