For my STEP project, I have had the opportunity to work as a PCA at the Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State. As a PCA (Personal Care Associate), I assisted the nurses and hospital staff doing such tasks as taking vitals on patients, measuring input/output for each patient, providing bathing services for patients, as well as other miscellaneous duties.
I don’t want to sound like a cliche, but I changed much more than I thought from this opportunity. Working closely with patients that have heart failure, I have developed a new understanding of life and death, something most people my age, or any age, have no clue about. I have developed a better sense of what matters in this life as well as a better level of maturity.
PCA’s have several weeks of training before they are on their own, due to the amount and importance of tasks we complete. For the majority of my training on the floor, I was paired with another PCA that is only two years older than I am. She actually was going to be quitting soon since she had just graduated nursing school and accepted a position as a nurse already. I remember vividly the first time going into a patient’s room, trying to remember the correct dialogue “Hi I’m Danielle, I’ll be your PCA for today, and i’m just going to do x,y, and z”. Sounds simple enough, but needless to say there may have been a bit of stammering.
Throughout training I was introduced to many wonderful team members, whether it was a nurse or another fellow PCA. I started to develop my support system, which was vital in a place such as this. As I finished my training and began to work on my own, my preceptor had finished her job not only training me, but also as a PCA, moving on to her noble work as a nurse. I was left without my primary support person, but was quickly reminded I was not on my own; I had the whole staff of 6 Ross behind me, supporting me.
I could tell my first few assignments were easier than normal because I was new, but I eventually was introduced to a normal patient load with all responsibilities given to me. I soon was introduced to a patient I will refer to as Dalton for sake of confidentiality. Dalton had been in and out of the hospital, for a long period of time(something that can unfortunately be common with my patient population) so I started to know him pretty well as time progressed. Additionally, as time progressed, Dalton got much worse. I would at times have conversations with him about his thoughts on the afterlife, and his attitude towards it all. He would not be the only patient I had these kinds of conversations with. I would get to know the palliative care team, who I personally believe, are the closest a person can get to being a living saint.
Because of how much I was exposed to those who were at death’s door, I would hear a lot about their values, their beliefs, and plainly what they were thinking in that exact moment. I was able to inherit a lot of wisdom from them and learn what they thought was most important in life. I personally believe that those who are in this stage of life can at times have the best idea of what is most important because they had already lived through most of what life had to offer. I have unfortunately seen some of these people pass, entering the final stage and forever stage of life; death. It is a somber experience seeing someone die, watching their family around them become even more emotional than the moment before, embracing each other while trying to be strong, coping from the inevitable misfortune that had happened in front of them. Trying to be a voice of comfort, a shoulder to cry on, or be whatever these people need, is what helped me transform into the person I am today.
This transformation is significant to me because I plan on being a nurse, and eventually a nurse practitioner. I will most likely work in a hospital setting, surrounded by patients that will have experienced unfortunate events in their life. No matter where I am, I know that my patients will need to be compassionate, sympathetic, empathetic, and their main support system. No matter where my career takes me, my goal will always be to be there for my patients and let them know that I care.