by Jenna Ranney, Product Specialist
Pursuing a life in medicine means confronting pain, disease, illness, and death with the aim to bring comfort, healing, and joy to those in need. I am only beginning my career in healthcare, and it has already shown me some of the most incredible things this life has to offer - and some of the most tragic parts as well. In my limited clinical experiences I have seen acute illness, chronic pain, and dire prognoses, yet I have also been witness to inspiring recovery, relentless strength, and unwavering hope.
My recent clinical rotations have brought me up close and personal with many patients suffering from chronic illnesses with little hope for improvement. These patients, however, are some of the most optimistic and joyful people I have been lucky enough to encounter. Working with patients who are sick or in pain can be incredibly demoralizing, especially for those of us who are brand new to the field. It is easy to be discouraged when there are no treatments, no procedures, no easy cures to alleviate the suffering we see before us. There have been many moments this semester when I have wished that there was more I could do for my patients.
I have learned, however, that I am not powerless, even with my limited scope of practice as a student. It was remarkable to see the comfort I could bring, entirely independent of my clinical skills. I do not have the training of a doctor to devise treatment plans nor the expertise of the nurses to perform complicated procedures, but what I can offer is the time and commitment to simply be with my patient. Without the endless responsibilities of the rest of the hardworking healthcare staff, I had the unique opportunity to spend precious minutes simply sitting at a patient’s bedside and connecting with them. I provided what physical comfort I could - cleaning them up, bringing their food, remaking their bed - but the most beneficial thing I could do was simply ask how they were and listen attentively to their response. Just having someone to hear their stories, share in their pain, and celebrate their joy did more to improve my patients’ status than I ever could have imagined. Even the most withdrawn and dejected patients lit up when we students sat with them for a little while.
It's easy to feel helpless in the face of chronic illness and pain, but the value in simple human connection cannot be overlooked. Patient care doesn’t always have to mean bringing the most complex surgeries, high tech devices, or cutting edge medical therapies to your patient - sometimes it quite literally means showing your patient that you care.
I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to meet patients from different walks of life and to share in their incredible stories. I am thankful for every joyful memory, every insightful story, and every word of advice that my patients have given me. Above all, I am humbled by the role I play in their stories and committed to bringing comfort in any way I can.