Saturday, November 29, 2014

Who Are We Helping More, Ourselves or Others?: The Point of it All

We arrived for our first day at Vida Clinic not really knowing what to expect, a familiar feeling that has kept me on my toes during my time in Costa Rica. But this time, it felt a little different. We were given a day of orientation prior to our first day of work at the clinic, but all of the medical terminology and role-playing was so overwhelming that it didn't feel quite real. We arrived at the bus the next day all dressed in our colorful scrubs, eager to get going and arrive at a school in a location we only knew as poor, about to meet with patients we really only knew as poor. No matter how much we were taught in orientation, nothing could have prepared me for one of the families my group met with on the first day. On many occasions, entire families would come in, and each member was presented with a problem. But one particular family especially pulled at my heart strings; it included an obese 9 year old child, a pregnant 14 year old child, and a diabetic mother who didn't take her medication. It was difficult, and I couldn't shake the feeling of "I can't believe this" throughout the entire visit. But then I took a step back, and realized that it doesn't matter what I could believe or not. This is completely about them, and that is exactly the point of a medical professional.
I was considering writing my blog post about how this type of work was the perfect dichotomy for what I've always wanted. I've studied and always loved Spanish since middle school, and have been interested in becoming a physician for as long as I can remember. Even though I recently decided that I want to pursue the career of a Physician Assistant instead, this experience was a glaring confirmation that I want to work somehow in medicine, and if possible, with the use of my Spanish skills, as well. So all in all, I was able to obtain an incredibly eye-opening and rewarding experience that will help in my future immensely.
However, after taking a step back after meeting with that family, I've considered the roots of my decision to pursue a career in the medical field in the first place. I want to help people. While this experience was very helpful for me, I was also able to cater to some of the needs of many patients (as much as I could as a volunteer), and that is why it was so rewarding. That is my motivation, and the point of it all. These types of experiences are not solely useful for our lives, but ultimately, for the lives of our future patients as well. If those who are interested in medicine can simply take a step back once in awhile, and realize that the reason they're doing what they're doing is so much more for others than for themselves (sadly unlike many professions), those that we will ultimately help will benefit more than we could ever anticipate.
Going through the motions just because it's our job, and just because it's what we were supposed to do with our lives, will only provide superficial care, and when I say that I don't mean it in the medical sense. While some of us could become surgeons and work viscerally, the type of care provided should be emotionally and mentally visceral as well. The point of it all is to reach patients in all senses; not to simply diagnosis the problem and provide any treatment options, but to also reach the patient in a way that others can't. That's something that I deeply respected about the doctor that worked with this family with us; he made sure to speak with the mother about why her (and her daughters') habits needed to change and that if not, they could majorly affect the outcome of her and her daughters' lives. It is the responsibility of anyone working in the medical field, volunteers included, to make sure that the patients' voices are heard and to provide professional empathy. That is the point, and while I learned lots and lots of medical and Spanish knowledge in Nicaragua, that is what I will take with me – both to my decisions and actions in the future, and most importantly, to my future patients as well.
Rachel Brown

No comments: