A glioblastoma is type of cancerous brain tumour.
Despite securing a medical school place the I do still want to continue volunteering at my local hospice which I have been doing for over 2 years now. It has been a very rewarding experience and helped me to develop a lot of skills. Every so often, during my volunteering I meet an interesting patient who makes me think about things a little deeper. So today I would like to share the case of a new patient at the hospice.
This is something that I’ve learnt throughout my volunteering at the hospice. Medicine is career which requires for you to work with many very unwell people, some of which may have debilitating illnesses. As a doctor you must act as the patient’s advisor, but also play a caring role within their treatment. I’ve learnt to recognise the importance of demonstrating a genuine compassion for the patient’s wellbeing and especially in environments like the hospice, showing patience and resilience. Even with my simple role of giving out the meals, I have been able to demonstrate this quality in the way I have waited for each patient to finish eating at their own pace and then coming to clear their food away. Even if a patient is taking a while to finish their food, you shouldn’t constantly keep going and asking whether they’ve finished as this will make them feel uncomfortable. During today’s shift 3 patients passed away and there were many very distressed family members at the hospice. This made me reflect on the importance of taking care for anybody who may be affected by an illness as well as the person suffering from it. It’s very important to show understanding to the emotional impacts of a person dying on their family members as well as demonstrating a sense of resilience in the matter.
Most of the patients had gone home today as it is Christmas day, so there wasn’t a lot for me to do. However, going to the hospice today has allowed me to reflect on the dedication and commitment to society you must have pledged in order to serve as a doctor. I’ve learnt the true extent as to how practicing Medicine isn’t just a job, but a complete lifestyle. At the hospice, the reception was closed as the administration staff had taken the day off for Christmas . However, the doctors and nurses were still at work, helping the patients and providing for them. Once a doctor, you will always be one…even Christmas Day doesn’t mean you can stop.
One of the main things which I learnt from today’s Hospice visit is the importance of being able to treat a patient, provide them with the relevant diagnoses, medicines, pieces of advice as well as treating them with a level of respect and genuine care. It’s incredibly important that patients aren’t just isolated and treated like a checklist which must be completed. At the hospice, all of the rooms were decorated for the occasion of Christmas, the patients were given special treats. I thought this was the best approach to dealing with patients as these people in the hospice were able to engage with social events on the calendar which others who are fit and well are able to enjoy. I think this more holistic approach of dealing with healthcare would be a valuable addition across many healthcare institions as it would allow each patient to feel valued and involved, especially those who have been in hospital for a long period of time. Continue reading
Today I was also able to spent quite a bit of time with a patient who had been suffering from a brain tumour. I was able to follow her journey in the hospice as I was volunteering here when she was first admitted. I noticed that her health had significantly improved throughout the past few weeks: when she first came she couldn’t make sense of her words, she wouldn’t eat anything at all and wouldn’t sleep; and today she seemed so much more relaxed, was able to hold a conversation with me and enjoyed eating her meal. I was delighted to see her in a much better condition and especially upon hearing the news from her that she was going to be going home soon. I spoke to one of the nurses as despite my happiness, I was surprised that she was being sent home. I learnt that many of the patients at the hospice are admitted and then sent home later as their condition improves a little. This was quite interesting to learn, as I thought a hospice functioned in only keeping patients who will continue deteriorating until they pass away. I was not aware that a patient could actually improve in their condition despite their illness still being terminal. I also learnt that many patients are originally admitted to a hospice for symptom control purposes and some patients are brought in on a trial period in order for the doctors to monitor them so the best medication can be prescribed. The nurse told me that there is quite a lot of patients who return home and then do have to come back to the hospice again after that. She said that it is really emotional and heart breaking to see a patient have to come back in a worse condition than which they would have left a few months ago.
With the case of the patient with the brain tumour, I knew that she had been going for radiotherapy on a weekly basis and the nurse I spoke to confirmed that this treatment had really improved her condition. Upon speaking to the patient herself and asking her how she feels her condition has progressed throughout her stay at the hospice she told me that she feels like a “new person”. She confided in me that when she first came in, she couldn’t see anything, couldn’t recognise everyday objects and felt she had “completely lost the plot”. It was incredibly interesting to learn that she was able to recognise the change within herself too and the fact that she really appreciated the care that she had received. Despite her cancer not being cured, I think that being able to provide a patient with the correct level of care so that they feel satisfied is a major success within itself. I find the story of this particular patient really inspiring as I was able to see the direct impact the treatment and care she was provided with had on her. Being able to see this change in a patient greatly motivates me to want to be able to impact other people’s lives in such a way.
One of the first things that I noticed was that one of the patients who seemed to have been deteriorating over the past couple of weeks was no longer here. I spoke to the nurse who told me that she had unfortunately passed away after her stay, which had been several weeks long. Hearing about the death of a patient is always a sad time, especially since I had developed quite a close relationship to this particular patient throughout her time here. However, this taught me about the emotional aspect of a career in Medicine, especially in a place like the hospice. I’m able to reflect on the significance of being able to demonstrate resilience due to the fact that as doctor you will be expected to deal with severely unwell and even dying patients on a day to day basis.
In today’s shift I spoke to a new patient who had been admitted this week. She was really distressed and was speaking in an incoherent way. She displayed a variety of emotions such as fear and anger which I thought was rather worrying and she was repeatedly asking questions such as, “Is he here yet? He’s come, hasn’t he?” She was also refusing to eat her food, saying that she had to deal with ‘him’ first. I spoke her with a tone comfort and reassurance in order to calm her down and make her feel more relaxed. I then approached the nurse as I was concerned about this particular patient’s wellbeing as she appeared to be quite anxious. The nurse told me not to worry about it as she has a tumour located in her brain and has been displaying this type of behaviour ever since she was admitted. She also told me that that this particular patient also suffers from Bipolar Disorder which explained her intense emotional state. This experience was something which really affected me as I was able to see the direct effects of cancer on a patient and this made me recognise the significance of the services that are provided by the hospice – without this specialised care her needs may have been neglected and this made me reflect on the importance of caring for the patient as a whole in a holistic manner. I was also able to appreciate the uniqueness ofeach patient’s care as sometimes it may be a multitude of different conditions which are contributing to their overall state. I was able to reflect on how a doctor must be able to consider each patient as a whole individual rather than just focussing on their diagnosed conditions independently.
Today a patient with renal failure passed away. This really opened my mind as I was able to reflect on the fact that hospices don’t just deal with cancers, but also a wider range of life threatening illnesses, such as renal failure. I spoke to the hospice physician who told me about the difficulty of prescribing drugs to patients whose kidneys aren’t functioning normally as the patient they will be unable to work it out of their system as easily as a person with a fully functioning kidney.