During the first nine months of my junior year, I volunteered at Palomar Pomerado Hospital as a student intern in the Intermediate Care Department. Ever since the fifth grade, my dream has been to go to medical school; therefore, I wanted to take the initiative and familiarize myself with the inner-workings of the hospital system. However, my first four-hour shift volunteering at the hospital was horrible.
I had not received any training or orientation for this position, and I felt lost. I watched the clock, evaded the nurses, dodged the other volunteers and pretended I was helping when actually I was doing nothing. I hid from the medical staff and avoided the patients. The thought of volunteering for the next nine months loomed in my head, and I wondered how I would survive if all the shifts were going to be like my first. To end my despair, I sought the advice of my fellow volunteers, who seemed to be working diligently their entire four-hour shifts. I was surprised when they told me they enjoyed volunteering and were having fun talking to the patients.
I asked them to show me the ropes. They taught me how to interact with the patients, administer medication, change bedding, and assist at mealtimes. With training came confidence and I committed myself wholeheartedly to the work. I went into the storage room and memorized the location of items such as towels, ointments, toothbrushes, and water cups. I was able to efficiently dispense the needed materials to patients and nurses. I also went to every room, making sure that the patients' heart monitors and IV fluids were in place. Every hour, I measured blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, temperature, and pain level, updating the information with the patients' assigned nurses. Most importantly, I started to talk with the patients, who were mostly elderly. Sometimes I sat with them for hours as they shared stories of their careers, families, successes, and regrets. I found myself looking forward to my Saturday afternoon shifts.
During the internship, I learned that by being proactive and finding the courage to ask for help, I could create an opportunity to be fully engaged in all aspects of my life. This lesson will be with me forever and has already paid huge dividends. I have been promoted to leadership positions at school and in my youth group. Academically, my overall performance and mastery of material has improved because I seek personal interactions with my teachers. Being assertive is making me a better person and will make me a better physician. My commitment to medicine has been confirmed and strengthened by my internship experience.