Since we have had a few discussions about the difficulty in finding a doctor with empathy, I hope you might like this hopeful story.
Medical Students Learn by Living in Nursing Homes
(Aug. 19) -- Medical students at the University of New England are admitting themselves to nursing homes, the better to understand geriatric patients.
Amy Pratt, 25, entered her second year at the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine this month. Through its one-of-a-kind "Learning by Living" program, the Maine college arranges for interested students to live in nursing homes.
Pratt checked into a Massachusetts nursing home in May. Staff assigned her a patient profile.
Pratt presented with pneumonia secondary to aspiration, congestive heart failure, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. She used a wheelchair. She breathed with the help of oxygen tubes.
During her first day, Pratt ate a lunch of pureed turkey, mashed potatoes, squash and thick, syrupy orange juice. Later that day, she attended a performance by "The Lyric Ladies." Watching residents listen to the women sing "An Irish Blessing," Pratt was moved to tears.
Over the next 10 days, she experienced some of the physical discomforts of aging. She endured vitals checks and the loss of privacy that accompanies being bathed by a staff member. And she sat. "I was really surprised by how tiring it is to sit in the wheelchair most of the day," she said. "My bottom was sore and my lower back ached."
She relinquished control over everyday activities such as mealtimes and showers. When staff chatted about the beautiful weather, she felt sad, stuck inside.
But over the next 10 days, Pratt also enjoyed herself. She met a bingo-loving woman who taught her how to live positively inside the home and forged a slow-moving friendship with a gentleman who, at first glace, seemed uninterested. She grew close to residents and staff.
The morning of her departure, Pratt felt sick at the thought of going. "It was a lot harder to leave than I ever thought," she told AOL News.
The College of Osteopathic Medicine's Dr. Marilyn Gugliucci, who founded the program in 2005, said the 20 students who have undertaken the project typically felt sad to leave their new friends. "They look beyond age, disease, dementia, frailty and they connect heart-to-heart with the older adults. Having 60 years difference is nothing. It just melts away."
Beyond helping students develop empathy and understanding, the program has changed nursing homes, Gugliucci said. Several have instituted changes based on students' experiences. One home, for example, created a family orientation program after learning how students felt when family members failed to meet their eyes.
Ultimately, the Learning by Living program may result in better care for older patients from nursing home staff and from the doctors these students will become.
"They have to wheel a mile in the chairs of an elder before they truly understand the impact," Gugliucci said.
Pratt said she was most surprised to learn that many people in nursing homes are happy. "Sure there's a lot of hurt," she said. "There are definitely people who feel abandoned and tired, but there are a lot of people who are happy to be there, a lot of people who think of life care as home."
Looking down the road, Pratt believes the unforgettable experience will help ground her in relation to her patients.
"The biggest lesson … was that all of the people that I will help are people before they ever are or ever were patients," she said. "They lead full lives, they have families, they have important things to talk about.
"I can honestly say that right now as a medical student I don’t remember every single artery or vein I learned last year, but I remember exactly how I felt in the nursing home."
"Empathy takes time, and efficiency is for things, not people."
"If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own."
"How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."
~George Washington Carver
Why my username? It is real life nickname. I love chickens. Will have my flock of hens one day! :D .............. DX'd with Fibromyalgia, chronic hives, sensitivities and allergies, migraines with auras, tmj, and IBS. Not sure what else!