Over the course of the eight months that I have been volunteering in the Hospice unit, I have learned a lot, not only about the medical profession but also about myself. Before this experience, death was always a very sad and scary concept to me. Because of my view on death, I liked to distance myself from it. To be completely honest, I was a little bit cold to it. It was just something that happened, and I wanted to just move on as quickly as possible. My view now has completely been changed. Death should not be viewed as a tragic end to life. This is something that I learned from the patients and their families.
Before I started volunteering, I was afraid the unit was going to constantly be in a depressed state. Instead, people were so thankful and grateful. While there were obvious tears and mourning, the atmosphere was not sad. Everyone was constantly thanking us for what the staff was doing for them or for their family. Also, most families expressed that they were happy that their loved one was finally done suffering. The patients, that could be, were focused on the positive things that have happened in their lives. Stories about how they met their husband or wife and what life was like as a kid were constantly being told. People were not dwelling on their illness or the possibility of death, which is what I had originally expected. This experience and subsequent change in my view on death will stay with me forever. While the death of a loved one or even your patient will always be sad, I can now view the time before it as a celebration of their life instead of ruminating on the loss.
Beyond my changed view on death, I also gained a lot of valuable experience that will help me as a future medical professional. Throughout my whole life, I have been a relatively shy person. I have never been too shy to interact with new people, but the experience has always made me a little bit anxious. Being a future doctor, I am going to have to interact with new patients and families constantly. Working in this unit has greatly improved this skill for me. I am now confident in my ability to start an interaction between any of the patients and family members that are in the unit. Also, I now know what kinds of questions to ask to make sure that the patient wants to talk, and if they do, get the conversation started. Furthermore, I feel more than able to comfort both patients and their families through this difficult time in their lives. These skills are crucial to being a caring and well-qualified doctor. If I had not volunteered in the Hospice unit, I would have had to learn these skills when I started my career. Now because of this program and my experiences, I already have the insight into how to properly interact with a patient while being as helpful and kind as possible. For this reason, I am very thankful for this experience.