Saturday, November 29, 2014

Under Pressure...Blood Pressure That Is

Under Pressure…Blood Pressure That Is
Anne Boldt

    ​Picture this: you’re ten years old, it’s past your bedtime, but you’re hiding on the staircase trying to sneak a peek at the television screen while your mom watches the newest hit drama, ER. Well, I was that kid every week and because of that, I knew at a pretty young age that I was destined to work in the medical field. The intensity and never ending rush of the hospital seen on the show had captured my attention and it wasn’t letting go any time soon. Years later, as a junior in my undergraduate studies, my desires to work in the medical field have not faltered. However, until recently, I never had any experience working directly with patients. Granted, I have volunteered at hospitals checking patients in for surgery and I have shadowed doctors, but I had never worked with patients in any medical manner. Fortunately, at the end of October this year, I was given the opportunity to come in direct contact with patients at a clinic.
    As we approached the community of Hoja Chigüe, Nicaragua, I felt jumpy and I couldn’t tell the difference between my excitement and nervousness. To make matters worse, the closer we got to the clinic site, a school, the harder it became for our enormous tour bus to make its way through the hazardous dirt roads. In fact, about half a mile from the school, we had to make our way to the school on foot due to the poor conditions. Upon arriving to the site, we quickly set up our makeshift pharmacy and consultation areas, and in groups of three, two students and a translator, we awaited the arrival of our first patients. For each group of patients, one of the students interviewed the patient about their medical history and current symptoms, while the other took vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
    After a few minutes of waiting, we finally saw our first patient approaching; an elderly woman sat down and I was ready to begin the consultation. I did my best to ask her about her medical history in Spanish and utilized the translator as little as possible. After a rocky start, I made my way through the consultation and was eventually able to aid the doctor in the woman’s diagnosis. After the patient had left, I felt a rush like nothing I had felt before and I felt surprisingly confident and ready to take on the next patient. As I realized it was my turn to take the patient’s vitals, I felt my nerves returning. The day before, we had the opportunity to practice taking our classmate’s blood pressure, but I was never able to successfully do so, hence my nerves as an actual patient was approaching. Thoughts were racing through my head: “What if I’m not cut out to be a doctor? I mean, obviously I shouldn’t be one if I can’t even take someone’s blood pressure!” However, after my friend had finished the consultation she gave me an encouraging glance, I walked up to the patient to take their blood pressure. Calmly and confidently, I read a perfect 120/80 and felt like I was floating. It had been much easier than anticipated and I felt relief that a career in medicine wasn’t hopeless for me yet.
    The opportunity to work at the clinic in Nicaragua was an incredible experience and I learned so much more than I thought I ever could in just three days. Working with the patients came so naturally and I felt comfortable in the medical atmosphere. I’ve always known I wanted to become a doctor, but until working at the clinic, I never knew if I would be good at it or if it would even be a plausible career choice. Fortunately, my work in Nicaragua made me feel more confident in my decision to attend medical school, become a doctor, and improve the lives of all the patients I treat.

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