Aaron Chy, BSc General, PharmD Student
“Why Do You Work in Healthcare?”
I used to spend so much time thinking about a clever answer to this question. Something catchy and inspirational to impress employers, professors and other students. But truthfully, wanting to make a positive difference in someone else’s life is all I’ve ever cared for. I think many aspiring clinicians and students can relate.
But how do you stay passionate in your career when the people you’re supposed to care for could care less themselves? How do you work the rest of your shift when the first patient you see calls you racist slurs when you tell them they’re out of medication? How about when someone tells you to learn your place and stop trying to be something you’re not?
Recently, I had an experience of meeting a patient receiving a treatment for a unique disease. They were part of a special program with an extensive waiting list, and were receiving a cutting-edge medication worth thousands. They were also receiving narcotic painkillers. Of the two, you can guess which one I found in the trash later that afternoon.
Whether or not you work in healthcare, it’s incredibly disappointing when you go to the ends of the world to help someone, but they couldn’t even be bothered. So why should you?
The answer is, even when things seem bleak, every once in a while you run into a situation where you can make a difference. And it means everything.
Let me give you a little more background about my work. Currently, I have the privilege of providing pharmacy services to a low-income group home. This location is rampant with poor hygiene, drug use, and psychological issues. Why do I say it’s a privilege? Because working in this environment has shown me that even in the worst of places, showing basic compassion can bring out the best in others. It was also here that on one of my worst days, I was reminded of why I chose to pursue this career.
One particular patient I know comes to mind. With a history of abuse, drug use, and estrangement from her family, it’s a wonder she’s made it this far. Between her anxiety and crystal meth use, it’s been an uphill battle trying to treat her high blood pressure. But over time, we’ve made progress, and through all the bad days, we’ve had some good ones. Unfortunately, that day wasn’t one of them, and when I came in to see her it was obvious something was wrong. Agitated and highly anxious, it was obvious she had relapsed, even though she never admitted it. Fighting off the disappointment, it took everything I had to settle her down, and guide her through the deep-breathing exercises I’ve been teaching her. As we went through them, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s the point of me doing all this.
After some time, she started to calm down, and it was almost as if the real her was starting to come back. Truthfully, I was quite surprised, but I ran out of time and had to leave. As I was walking out, it’s what she said next that shocked me the most. Of all the things I experienced that day, from the needles on the floor, to the smell in the halls, to the strange man frantically pacing up and down the halls for the last hour, her next words were what struck me:
“Someone must’ve taken good care of you, because you have such a big heart.”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to fight back tears that day. And since then I’ve kept moments like that close, and often reflect on them when I start to question myself.
All It Takes is One
Sometimes, all it takes is that one moment to keep you going. That one interaction where you feel that you have made a difference, where you can walk away with a genuine appreciation for what you have done.
Are these moments few and far between? It can certainly seem that way. Do they make everything worth it in the end? Absolutely.
Can you think of that one experience where you made a change?