Monday, September 5, 2011

A Long-expected Update...

Let me dive right in... School has been a surprising affair this semester; and not just from the ex in one class trying to rekindle a dead romance.  I walked into my general psych class excited and staggered into philosophy class with a sense of dread.  As a psychology major and enthusiast I assumed I'd find psych to be the best part of my schedule, it is a fascinating and fun class, but found philosophy to be an absolute blast.  Day One in philosophy we jumped straight into such varying philosophical subjects as ontology, monism, atomism, and the pre-Socratic era.  Despite it being the first class we dug into some really cool ways of philosophizing and absorbing everything around us and the next week we did it again, with a focus on Socrates through Plato's writings.  Once a week seems like too little time to be studying even a introductory teaching of philosophy.  Definitely thinking about minoring in philosophy.

I spoke with Ms. Mosley about research opportunities necessary for med. school and she did a little digging.  She's going to get a research ICDM class added to my degree plan that will at least push me in the right direction for research experience.  I'll have the opportunity to take it next semester.  I also found out Ms. Mosley is my student adviser, she's a kind and brilliant teacher so that is a definite win.

Things on the volunteering front finally picked up today.  My first assignment was interacting with terminal dementia patients in a palliative care setting.  It was one of the most affirming events of my life since deciding to go full-throttle med. school.  Just to cover my butt and retain patient privacy I'm going to anonymize that individual.

The patient was surprisingly coherent and vocal when we entered the room, and we introduced ourselves as volunteers.  We explained to the patient that we would like to sit with them and talk, to keep them company, and the patient agreed.  After some discussion of the weather (Tropical Storm Lee) and other trivial matters the patient seemed to be getting tired and I was left in their room should they decide to talk more.  Though the patient was engaging and even funny, I felt oddly unsure of my place in the conversation between the patient and the experienced person who was with me.  My companion was very familiar with the setting and had far more experience than me, I think they recognized that fact and mercifully left me to struggle alone with the patient.  The patient drifted to sleep, then woke and decided to talk with me again.  I still struggled, I just couldn't connect any meaningful conversation or determine what purpose it should serve.  We had only just met, I was sitting at their bedside, close enough to hear them breathing, and I was talking like an idiot; going through the motions of conversation and failing.  We bumbled around at talking until it died away, and then I desperately sought out something to break the awkwardness.  I looked down at the bundle of papers in my hands; their care plan!  It had the patient's personal information such as height, weight, religion, etc. as well as a quasi-medical breakdown of their condition, prognosis, etc.  Short term prognosis, generic adult failure to thrive, and sensory handicap.  I asked the patient how they enjoyed the Doctor listed on their care plan; "Great, the Doctor really listens to me, I know I'm old and dying but the Doctor treats me like I matter and it feels good.  I don't have family that see me and the Doctor treats me like family."  I assume the patient hadn't received that same treatment from their last physician.  I asked the patient how they enjoyed the facility; "It's newer and I like having my own space.  They actually like seeing me and I know all their names."  I again assume that this hadn't always been the case for the patient. The conversation turned back toward the weather, because it had worsened outside the window not because of dementia, and then tapered off as the patient became sleepy again.  I thanked the patient for their time and asked if I could return soon, they agreed.

I walked out of that room reminded why I wanted to practice medicine one day: to help people like that patient.
And also how I wanted to practice: with empathy and a focus on helping.


*LotR reference in post title!

1 comment:

  1. First follower!

    Your post reminds me of my first hospice volunteering experience right down to the letter. You will get better at conversing and feel comfortable in that environment in no time at all.

    Good luck!