My Experience Volunteering for Hospice

Unfortunately, I was not assigned a patient throughout my time as a volunteer at Athena Institute Hospice. Consequently, I can not write about any Hospice related patient interactions. Nonetheless, I am able to reflect on some meaningful information that I learned over the course of the program. For instance, learning about hospice care through the Athena Institute curriculum gave me the opportunity to gain more insight into not only the death experience but also into how physicians perform during the process of treating terminally-ill patients. It was particularly interesting to learn about what medical professionals emotionally and mentally undergo when faced with a medical issue. Many doctors initially experience fear when approached with a problem that they are intended to fix. Following this fear, they experience anxiety in trying to solve their patients’ problems and be as competent as possible. If their solutions do not help resolve those problems, they start to question their treatment plan, subsequently, an additional level of anxiety emerges. It was extremely helpful to read up on this type of material as it gave me a better sense of what to expect once becoming a physician. Prior to this program, I had a black and white thinking fallacy for many health-care related issues. However, after completing this program, I realized how noble and respectable physicians are making difficult decisions for patients during their end of life.
Furthermore, meeting regularly with other student volunteers to share our experiences and support one another was also extremely valuable. It gave me the opportunity to share my opinions about and experiences in the medical field with students that are just as passionate about pursuing medicine. Our facilitated discussions became a great asset to me and my understanding of the principles of medical ethics. I was able to learn that a great physician not only receives substantial medical training, but practices the four pillars of medical ethics: beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice. Along with this, they sympathize with their patients and try to understand their goals with their treatment plan. Through this process, honesty becomes also a notable characteristic for a doctor as it can help patients better understand the severity and logistics of their illness. From this, patients and or family members of those patients will be better equipped to make well-informed and educated life altering decisions. As such, I would describe this program as not only insightful but also inspirational in my future medical school application. I am now confident that I want to pursue medical school after completing my undergraduate degree in biology and Spanish at Swarthmore College in hopes of becoming a board certified physician that practices family medicine. I want to help serve low-income, underdeveloped communities and decrease health disparities within the Latinx community by bridging language and cultural barriers that hinder patients from having access to quality medical care. By fostering what I learned through this program, I will be more competent and capable of becoming an advocate for my patients and their loved ones.