How I was Changed through Hospice

One of my most memorable experiences during the course of this program was interacting with the son and daughter of an elderly woman on the unit. The woman was no longer verbal and was barely responsive to the nursing staff. She was, however, as illustrated by her children, to be very responsive to them and other family members. If her son or daughter was present in the room and speaking, she would lean in their direction and reach out calmly but desperately until she received their grasp. Once she was in either of their embrace, her breathing would slow and her entire body seemed to be more tranquil. They told me that for her to sleep, she needed to be in contact with one of them, whether it be holding their hand or them laying in bed with her.
This patient and experience impacted me in two very profound ways. From dialogue with her children and family, she reminded a lot of my own mother. Both from the way she acted with needing her children’s comfort and from the stories they told me about her, brought memories and emotions of my own mother to mind. Envisioning putting myself in their position choked me up, and I have made a constant attempt to communicate with my own family since. The more medically profound way that this encounter impacted me, was in a realization of what consciousness and lack of can be. It gave me the realization that just because a patient is unresponsive does not mean that they are completely unconscious. And that realization solidified in me the necessity of continuing to show empathy, compassion and respect to unconscious patients regardless of their apparent or believed state of being. Moreover, that respect to patients should never be denied due to beliefs or evidence of incompetence.
My view of healthcare was influenced more than my¬†view of medicine through this program. Hospice care is unique to the medical field in that it is the one field that is no longer trying to treat an illness. This carries with it the understanding that medicine need not always apply, or to phrase it in another way-medicine is not always a pharmaceutical product, but can be simply care, comfort and presence alone. In hospice most patients are receiving some form of analgesic or opiate for pain, but other than that their primary source of ‘medicine’ is in the care and compassion from the medical staff on the unit. Witnessing this granted me the realization that this in absolutely no way solely applies to Hospice or palliative care. In fact, it can be utilized in any medical situation, but has to be employed actively and directly by the medical professional.
I would say that the program influenced my future ambition of becoming a doctor by showing me what it takes to be a truly good doctor. To become an MD you need to be intelligent to understand how to prescribe and treat patients, but to be a truly good doctor you need to have the experience and capability to be professionally empathetic and compassionate towards your patients. Displaying such qualities benefits the patient, their care and the well being of their family members. This program allowed me to witness firsthand, and attempt to personally exemplify those qualities to patients and their family members.