I made my way into my grandmother’s room after hearing her get sick from her chemotherapy earlier that day. Seeing her in that state instantly triggered something in me. I knew from that point forward that no deserves to suffer the way my grandmother did. People deserve to have their voices heard and know that they matter, and by achieving a career as a physician assistant I could have the honor of caring for them in their time of need.
Volunteering at UF Health Cancer Center as a care ambassador on the surgical oncology nursing unit I developed meaningful relationships with individuals who were just like my grandmother. While conducting floor rounds with patients undergoing cancer treatment, I learned about how people react physically and emotionally to treatment. As a volunteer I was able to provide support for them. Over the past year, I have consoled people when they became emotional, placated the impatient, provided solace to those struggling with physical sickness, and provided education for the uninformed. These experiences allowed me to learn more about myself, finding that by being an adept communicator and considerate listener I can provide a more positive environment. By acclimating to diverse personalities, mental distress, and physical illness, I have acquired the ability to feel connected to others on a genuinely personal level just as I was connected to my grandmother.
My motivation for becoming a CNA was to be able to satisfy my yearning for personal interaction with patients while also being a direct part of their care in a team setting. Initially, I lacked the self-confidence needed to be able to provide the best care for my patients due to my lack of experience and knowledge. However, I realized that in order to become a physician assistant I needed to overcome this. Since becoming a CNA I have achieved a level of self-awareness, increased knowledge, and confidence in my ability to provide care. As a result, I feel I am much more interactive with members of the healthcare team and with patients themselves than I was when I was just a volunteer.
Over the past year, it is the meaningful relationships I have formed with my patients that have truly changed me. One patient in particular has impacted my life in the most positive way. John, a quadriplegic of 31 years who I provide total care for, has taught me everything I know about being a CNA. He has taught me how to provide safe and effective care, what it means to be responsible for someone who depends on you, and the ability to adapt and maintain flexibility in completing daily tasks. Through John, I realized being a provider demands that you be a lifelong learner, which is something that I love. I learn more about myself, medicine, and my patients every day; Thus, I am very eager about the possibilities of what I would learn as a physician assistant.
While shadowing a physician assistant who specialized in neurology, I saw that I thrive on the fast moving, rigorous, and intellectually challenging daily routine of a physician assistant. During his patient consultations it was captivating to see such a diverse demographic. Every patient brought with them their own unique personality, stories, and cultural background that helped guide how treatment was advised. While shadowing, what surprised me most was the sheer number of unique illnesses and diagnoses a physician assistant would encounter on a daily basis.
For example, there was a patient with Friedreich’s ataxia, which is a rare inherited disease that causes progressive nervous system damage and movement problems. Illnesses such as Friedreich’s ataxia express themselves uniquely in each individual, and the correct treatments are diverse. I noticed that such diversity made each patient seem like a puzzle that needed to be solved to find the right diagnosis and treatment. History, physical exams, the labs and imaging all act as individual puzzle pieces that when pieced together, you as a provider can finally solve. It is this kind of problem solving that appeals to my curiosity. Facing a challenge head on in order to treat and diagnose a patient ensures that the patients voices are truly being heard and becomes more meaningful when you are part of the solution.
Medicine is not just about test tubes and needles. It is about how people’s conditions interact with their feelings, struggles, and concerns and developing a treatment plan that focuses on all of these aspects. As I’ve learned through volunteering and working as a CNA, people deserve a physician assistant who is compassionate and empathetic. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and developing individualized solutions. They deserve someone who wants to connect to another human being on a genuinely personal level, and I want to be that physician assistant. Until that time, I can be found spending my mornings with John, dreaming about the day I have the honor of being his physician assistant.
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