“Ms. Mary is very excited to spend time with you,” the nurse said on my first day of hospice volunteering. From behind the nurse’s shoulder, I saw Ms. Mary rolling her power chair toward us, a toothless grin on her face. She looked up at me, her nasal cannula hissing with oxygen, and greeted me with her hoarse voice. I turned around to see that the nurse had dashed away, and left me alone to take care of Ms. Mary, who had heart failure, COPD, chronic pain and many other medical conditions.
I am an engineering graduate. My rigorous education has taught me that when presented with a problem, I should systematically narrow down solutions to figure out the best possible one. During my second week of medical school I had my first standardized patient encounter. I felt very pleased with myself when I walked out the door after having asked the patient specific questions about her foot pain and been rewarded with the details of her worries.