I have very much enjoyed being a hospice volunteer over the past six months. I have learned a lot in my short time in this program, and this program has probed some deeper thinking about important topics within me. My patients have been wonderful, and even though we did not speak, due to certain barriers, I learned a lot from them as well. My patients taught me how important physical touch and eye contact are when speaking to a patient. The patient that I have had for the past couple of months only responded when I looked her directly in the eye and held her hand. That is when she was most calm and most connective. I never realized how crucial that is to gaining someone’s trust who cannot hear or talk to you on a regular basis. I plan to go into pediatrics and this will be helpful in my future practices.
The first prompt we received was a video about a doctor who had a patient that was terminal. He became very attached to this patient and it was hard to watch her die. This started the conversation about death. I am no stranger to seeing others pass away. I have been to a number of funerals, even for those whom I am close to, but I never thought about losing future patients. I want to become a doctor to save people, not watch them die but it is inevitable. How do I think of death? I’m trying so hard to prolong it and push it off with medicine, yet I will have to eventually accept it. What I have to also try to reconcile with this idea of death is my faith. How does belief of the afterlife affect my view of death and how can I use that with my patients? A pivotal moment in my hospice experience was when my patient, who has been declining rapidly in health, hunched over, folded her hands, and started to pray. This shocked me and also showed me that my patient had a deep understanding of what was to happen in the near future. Although she didn’t speak, I took this as a sign of acceptance because she looked so peaceful afterwards. I think a belief in God helps people understand and accept what is to come and I think that will help me in my pursuit of a medical career.
I have learned a great deal through my time with this program and am proud to have completed this program. I am very grateful of the people I have come in contact throughout this experience. My friends that I became closer with during this program have helped me a good deal as well. The community that this program fosters has helped me cope with losing patients and helped me think more deeply about the subjects that naturally come out of dealing with death and medicine. I am very excited to take what I have learned, cultivate the ideas that have started to bud, and apply these things to my life. I know I have a lot of growing left and am glad this program helped that along.