One shift in the emergency room, a woman came in wailing. She was clutching her stomach in excruciating pain and discomfort. I ended up by her side, walking her through breathing exercises while holding her hand and shoulder.
Another shift, a patient was very frustrated that nobody spoke Russian in the hospital. She was agitated, screaming in her language to everyone who walked nearby. I ended up by her side too, having a lively emotional conversation using hand motions and drawings.
A third time, I saw a man screaming in anguish over the sight of his amputated finger being stitched up. I ended up by his side as well, asking about his past as a professional world traveling bicyclist. He later squeezed my hand and thanked me for understanding what he needed.
I will never forget these experiences that strengthened my ability to connect with the patients who need it most. I have grown immensely into a strong caregiver able to listen with compassion and sensitivity. Building these skills was the most important goal for me this summer as I believe empathy is as critical a part of medicine as a diagnosis. Every day in the hospital, I saw firsthand that empathy has strong positive effects on a patient’s overall care.
In the modern Hippocratic oath, physicians swear to “remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug”. I am privileged to have had five hours a day with the purpose of providing this warmth, sympathy, and understanding. In the hospital, volunteers and first year providers have a very obvious drive to advocate for and understand patients. I look up to the physicians who maintain this passion after years of practice, and I strive to be like them in my future.
I encourage future Project Healthcare volunteers to notice who holds on to this passion and learn from them. Use this time to build your own lifelong interpersonal and bedside manner skills. Take the time to understand this diverse populations’ backgrounds and values and use this knowledge to advocate. I encourage you, and everyone interested in healthcare, to step out of your comfort zone and speak up for those who need it most.
As I leave this internship, I am taking with me a stronger understanding of how I can best help in my future. Project Healthcare has solidified my passion to advocate for equitable access to healthcare. With this in mind, although I have not narrowed down a specific career path, I have decided to work with medically underserved populations in my future. I found that I can always work on strengthening my understanding of other backgrounds and values and that doing so is key to being able to make a difference. In this way, I will continue to strive to implement change in underrepresented communities in whichever profession I pursue. Later this week, I will return my Bellevue ID, endlessly grateful for the people I have met and the lessons I have learned.