As part of the Service Learning Scholarship from Bethel, I volunteer as a nurse’s aide in the surgical department of the Newton Medical Center. I put in 60 hours a semester, which works out to about five hours per week. This year, I’m volunteering from 6-10:30 am every Thursday. It means that I have to wake up at about 5:00 am, which is less than ideal, but it’s really the only time that I can fit in such a large chunk of time. It helps that I absolutely love every minute of volunteering at the hospital. It’s a great way to gain experience in the medical field. Occasionally the head nurse is able to get me into the surgical suites to view procedures. I’ve seen a knee replacement, parathyroidectomy (removal of a parathyroid gland), hernia repair and several heart catheterizations. The doctors have always been very good at pointing out different anatomical landmarks and making sure that I can see exactly what they’re doing, to the point of pulling up a stool for me (I’m pretty short) and letting me peer over their shoulder. It’s an unparalleled rush, seeing the inner workings of the body displayed less than two feet away.
In addition to gaining medical experience, it’s also the one time in my week when I can unreservedly serve another person, whom I may never meet again. Last week, I had a patient who spoke only Spanish. The woman was very nervous, much of it due to the fact that none of our staff spoke Spanish, and she didn’t know what was expected of her or exactly what would happen. However, this past summer, I spent a month working in a medical clinic in Guatemala, so I was able to go with her into the procedure room and help her understand what was happening. I am fully aware of the fact that my Spanish has progressively deteriorated from the moment that I left the clinic, and that nearly every sentence I spoke contained errors, some of them rendering me incomprehensible. However, by making an effort on her behalf, I hope that I was able to improve her visit to my department, and leave her with a lessened sense of medically-associated anxiety.