Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Syliva is a rising Global Health senior. She is an aspiring PA and hopes to work with underserved communities as a future PA. She would like to go into a primary care setting to provide necessary preventive health care to those who struggle to access it.
“I believe that the interdisciplinary knowledge that I gained from being a Global Health major will help me achieve this goal and be able to help and support those who need it most.”
Sylvia spent 15 months volunteering with COPE Health Solutions/Scholars Program at the St. Joseph Hospital of Orange in Orange, CA. This organization gives first-hand experience to undergraduates of what working in a hospital is like. Health scholars receive direct patient experience as they aid medical staff, mainly nurses, with caretaking activities from ambulating to bathing to giving vital signs.
“I worked with nurses (RNs/CNAs) as they performed their daily routines at work to help serve patients and provide any comfort or answers to questions they needed, especially when nurses were busy. My general routine consisted of rounding on patients to see if there was anything they needed, asking nurses if they needed help or if I could shadow them, and helping support the hospital with what I could do. I received CPR certification for this program, along with HIPAA, sensitivity, medical terminology, and other basic medical training.”
Sylvia notes that one of the largest challenges she dealt with was unfair or excessive patient wait times. To help ease their frustration and boredom, she would interact with the patients.
“I came to realize that most of the time patients just feel so isolated and unheard when they’re confined in a hospital room, so talking to them helped alleviate their frustrations until the proper medical staff could attend to them.”
At times, Sylvia also found interacting with the nurses to be somewhat of a challenge as well. She remembers feeling as though she was expected to do more than she was trained for. She was also acutely aware of the fact that a mistake on her part was not always received well by the nursing staff. In these moments, Sylvia did not outwardly express her frustration, but rather came to realize that;
“Medical professionals are constantly under a lot of stress, and to not take anything personally, as well as learn from my mistakes for next time.”
Her time volunteering at the hospital also taught Sylvia how to to empathize in a variety of very difficult situations.
“Being in a healthcare system, of course, you have to be able to empathize whether it’s with patient’s families who are dealing with a loss, frustrated patients, patients who are suffering, etc. I believe that I was able to gain the necessary understanding to be able to help support patients rather than just “deal with them.” Patients can see this empathy and can definitely distinguish between someone who cares and someone who doesn’t and will react accordingly. I also have a lot of valuable memories working with nurses and other medical staff and getting their perspectives and own experience with healthcare.”
In her free time, Sylvia would speak to the nurses and listen to their experiences in healthcare, or even just learn about their life beyond their job. She would also find small things to do, like restock medical carts and other things to help support the floor.
“This FE really gave me the opportunity to get to know a very diverse group of people, patients and medical staff included.”
Sylvia is currently searching for an organization where she can enjoy the same level of patient interaction that she had during her field experience. She also hopes to find a volunteer opportunity in more of an outpatient setting, rather than within a hospital so that she can interact with people who may not get access to inpatient settings.