Although my year in the Ascend Premed Hospice program is coming to a close, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to meet and learn the stories of not only the Hospice patients and staff but from Allie, Jake, and Chaplain Bridget as well. This volunteer experience has deeply affected my view of medicine, enabled me to explore issues of palliative care, and cultivated my identity as a caregiver. I want to take all that I have learned to help patients achieve the highest quality of care at the end of their lives into my career.
One of the things that has left an enduring impression on me was watching the “Being Mortal” documentary during training. It exposed and taught me about the experience of dying from the patient’s and family’s point of view. It highlighted the dilemmas I may encounter as a future physician regarding my inherent drive to continuously provide my patients with the best possible care or to “cure” them, while recognizing that preparing them for end-of-life care is not a “failure” but under the same category of quality care as well.
A peak in my Hospice experience was when I visited Brookdale Hamilton for the first time. It was around November/December and up until that point, I was visiting PCC once a week. As soon as I entered the Brookdale facility, the environment immediately felt different to me compared to the atmosphere in PCC—it felt homier and more comfortable. In addition to meeting directly with and offering support to hospice patients and their families, one of most rewarding experiences I have had at Brookdale is participating in the group activities. From sharing my personal story and passion for community service in a circle of friendly and smiling faces to playing ring toss to dancing to the oldies, Brookdale felt like a community whenever I visited so that I always looked forward to visiting the hospice patients.
I have enjoyed two extremely meaningful relationships at Brookdale. The first is with Ed who without fail, will always be found wheeling around the hallways donning his familiar cap and willing to join in on any conversation. The other meaningful relationship is with Liz. I admire her for her dedication to Brookdale and she is the epitome of someone who serves the people. Her dedication to providing and enlightening the lives of Brookdale inspire me to do the same as a hospice volunteer and as a future doctor.
Resource and Reflection meetings with other hospice volunteers have also been very valuable. While discussing the emotions we experience through our exposure to patients and their families navigating the complexities of dying, I have a supportive group of people having similar difficulties and revelations.
Overall, I really feel like I am making a difference to hospice patients and their loved ones with the communication and support skills I am learning and practicing in the Ascend program. Volunteering for hospice puts my life in perspective like nothing else and I have learned about the beauty in people for being deeply grateful for the smallest acts of compassion and presence. I feel absolutely grateful to Ascend, PCC, Brookdale, the patients and their families I have met who allowed me to join them in their sacred space for which I have gained enormous rewards and insights into being a better person, caregiver, daughter, and friend that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.