Hospice Volunteering Reflection

Beginning from the first meeting for our Hospice volunteering group, I knew this experience would be different than any other I had had in my undergraduate years. What stuck with me was the message of treating the whole person in Hospice, meaning not only the physical aspects of health, but the spiritual too. This idea has been prominent in every experience I had during my volunteer hours, as I quickly learned that when in Hospice, most patients had come to accept they were going to pass soon. What the patients needed at the point they had reached was someone to talk to and their pain to be relieved.
One of my most meaningful relationships during my volunteering was one I developed in the course of a day. It was around Thanksgiving time and a patient’s family had brought in a whole feast for the entire floor. The patient repeatedly told me I really had to try some of the food. While talking to her, I was amazed by her lively spirit. She seemed so content, it was hard to believe she was terminally ill. She talked about her family, her job, and her life experiences with pride. It was a special experience to be in the presence of someone that had truly achieved everything they had wanted to in their life.
Such moments with patients happened more than once. This further added to the idea of treating the spirit that had been told to us on the first day. The notion of medicine through this program for me has become more than just handing someone a prescription and thinking the job is done. Really, medicine is being there for someone and allowing them to know you care. Medicine is also about knowing when medical treatment is not going to help a patient, and when it is time to allow them and their families to come to terms with what is inevitable. I think Hospice has really taught me the reality that death is not something to be feared, but to be accepted.
My time volunteering at Hospice has further inspired me to pursue medicine. I have always had the goal of pursuing psychiatry, and I thought that palliative care would be an interesting experience because of being different to that. On the contrary, now I feel as though I learned a lot about mental health by being a Hospice volunteer. It takes a very healthy mind to reach the end of life and be ready for it. I have been inspired by the patients I worked with to pursue a field in which I can hopefully bring people to appreciate everything in their life, and strive to achieve what they dream of.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given through the Hospice Pre-med Volunteering Program. It has been a highlight of my undergraduate career, and I have learned much more than I ever could have from a class.