Working in Hospice has made me realize how vital end of life training is within the healthcare system. I realized throughout this program that death is not synonymous with failure; rather, death is an inevitable aspect in every life. However, with proper care and support, death can even hold beauty. Although I do not think I want to specialize in Hospice and palliative care, I do think the ethics and process of handling death in Hospice care is vital for any specialty. Many doctors in today’s healthcare system lack a thorough training and skillset to deal with patients and their families during such a difficult situation. Before this program, I thought very little about Hospice care, but now I believe medical schools should change their curriculum to place a larger emphasis on end of life training. Overall, this program may not have changed my sense of vocation, but it did make me more passionate about changing the way medical professionals handle death.
Throughout this program, one of the most useful guides in handling Hospice volunteering for the first time was the various prompts we were assigned over the year. The prompt that resonated with me the most was the first prompt, which was an episode of Frontline titled “Being Mortal.” This prompt influenced me the most because it was the first exposure I had with Hospice care outside of my experiences with my grandmother. I was able to see not only how Hospice can vary within hospitals and home settings, but also how quickly illness can take a toll on the patient. It was an eye-opening lesson for me that prepared me for some of the uncomfortable situations I would face while volunteering.
Going through the various levels of training truly shaped my understanding of death and dying the most. I learned how to handle both specific and general scenarios that may arise in end of life care and felt significantly more prepared to handle Hospice care because of it. This experience has made me more open to handling death; I feel like I gained a stronger foundation for medicine through this program.
To this day, the most meaningful Hospice experience I had was with my grandmother. Last year, my grandmother was placed in Hospice care almost immediately after I began my freshman year of college. At first, I handled the situation poorly; I found it hard to accept that she was dying even though I saw her walking around a month before. It was also my first experience with a death in the family. This experience was my first encounter with Hospice and it will always be the most meaningful, but I use it as a guide to navigate through future Hospice experiences. After dealing with my personal experience, I also gained empathy for those with family members in Hospice. I realized that the people in hospital beds are more than just patients – they are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons to someone.
After completing this program, I definitely grew a lot as a volunteer and have become more confident in handling uncomfortable situations in healthcare. I realized throughout this Hospice experience that all life is terminal; although doctors are trained to heal, there comes a point where they must shift to providing physical and emotional comfort instead of a cure.