I started volunteering at the teaching-hospital in Milwaukee; it’s affiliated with the Medical College of Wisconsin. ((As of now, MCW is my second ranked school.)) I started off in the Emergency Department, but my first day there was horrible. I felt useless and inconvenient. So I requested to be transferred, and a week later I was in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, operating the front desk, allowing visitors to see their loved ones. What follows are two entries from the past two weeks:
“Today is different from last week, and what I am finding most interesting is the change from last week to today. I recognize a patient’s name from last week, but there are certainly new ones too. They are gathered in the front rooms, and the best part is that the doctors(/students?) are making their rounds. It’s fascinating: Their collaboration, what they are working toward, and what they know being put into practice. It’s something I would love to be part of.”
“Today, before I started my shift, I was informed that two patients had died. I remember the nurse passing the news to me in a playful way: “I think they died just now — just when you came in. Geez. What kind of dark cloud did you bring with you?” As an uninterested party, I felt no emotion, though I did have the very subtlest inclination that as vile as the nurse’s approach to the death of those patients was, it was appropriate.
“To meet the other end of the spectrum, one of the deceased’s spouse came in to sign autopsy papers. Her eyes were lightly swollen, and in her empty arms she caressed a box of kleenex — though it was uncomfortably apparent that she yearned to hold something, someone else. She was followed in by who I assumed were the daughter and son-in-law. Her entrance into the MICU was indicative of a strong woman, and when she approached me, I was eager to deflect the responsibilty of the situation.
“No one wants to confront death, but when we do, I understand why medical practitioners approach it the way they do.”
Being in a hospital setting is so surreal. I don’t know how else to describe it. Sitting in the front of the MICU and seeing the people around is just too real. It must sound stupid, but I can’t believe I’m looking at nurses, patients, families, and doctors. They are there for a reason — a reason that I hope I can soon verbalize, because I feel as though I’ve discovered it. It’s unbelievable: Two patients died, everyday doctors and students are discussing what next to do for a patient. It’s no longer me reading forums, books, and blogs about medical experience. I’m front row and center, intently and curiously watching as the story matures.