Name: Jessica Sciuva
Type of Project: Service/Service-Learning
For my STEP Project, I stayed in Columbus to volunteer at Grant Hospital in Downtown Columbus. I served as a volunteer in both the Emergency Department and the NICU at Grant.
One of the main goals of my project was to decide if I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field as a physician. In my time volunteering in this setting, I have decided that a healthcare setting is exactly where I want to spend my future as a professional and as a contributing member of society. Spending time in a setting such as Grant allowed me to see a vulnerable population that only those who are healthcare professionals can help. I believe that physicians can make differences in the lives of those who do need medical assistance and even further than just “curing” them in ways that no one else can.
My view of the world, and in specific, our country, was broadened in the sense of our healthcare system and how it affects those who are living in poverty. As Grant is downtown in a fairly poor area, many of the patients that come into the Emergency Department use Grant as their primary care physician as they do not have health insurance that allows them to go elsewhere. This leads to an extreme shortage of rooms, doctors, and other resources in the hospital that upsets the patients and families waiting for help. Another issue is transportation; many of the patients ask for bus passes or taxies, which the hospital provides only if a patient has been discharged. There have been multiple times where a parent has asked for food tickets for their children and I am unable to help them which is quite upsetting. I realized through these experiences that our healthcare system needs reform, although I am not exactly sure what the right path to take is.
One of the most memorable times that I had this summer was when I was volunteering in the NICU and I was holding a baby girl that was born very prematurely and was the baby of a mother with a drug addiction. Many of the babies in Grant’s NICU have parents that cannot or chose not to take care of them; either they do not have a home to take them home to, or they do not come visit to learn how to feed and care for the baby. In specific, I was holding this baby while the doctors came around and did rounds. Different to other NICUs I have been in, a social worker comes around on rounds and updates the physician and nurses on the status of the parents (if they have a place to take the baby home, if the parents are visiting, etc.) In the case of this baby, the social worker explained that the father was abusive to the mother and that the baby would not be allowed to go home with the parents. The mother was also a drug addict which was why the baby was having withdrawals and needed to be constantly held, and child services would be called to figure out what the next step would be for this innocent baby. Listening in on rounds while holding this helpless baby was a very awakening and emotional experience for me. My heart was broken as the baby could do nothing and was so unlucky to have been born into a situation such as this one. I began to realize right then and there that when I was a physician, I would go above and beyond to help those who cannot help themselves.
Another very memorable, but scary, moment I had was when I was volunteering at the Emergency Department desk and I was alone. There is typically a patient representative with me at the desk, but she was away helping out with the family of a trauma that had recently come in to the ED. I was calling a taxi for a man who had just been discharged when a woman rushed in screaming that her ex-boyfriend was after her and that he was outside with a knife and possibly a gun. The Emergency Department, already an overwhelming and bustling place, turned into a very scary and almost uncontrollable situation for me. The security desk is right around the corner from me, so I went to go let them know that she was in danger. All of this happened very fast, and the man entered the lobby while the woman ran and hid behind the wall right behind the desk that I was sitting at. Security handled the situation and asked the man to leave; and he did have a knife on him. While I was very scared myself in this moment, this situation also caused me to reflect on how severe relationship violence can be and how helpless it can cause someone to feel. Again, this experience inspired me to continue on my road to becoming a physician in order to help those who cannot help themselves.
Grant is a number one trauma center, so many of the very severe traumas such as gunshot wounds, motor vehicle crashes, and stabbings come into the Grant Emergency Department. As a result, working at the front desk of the Emergency Department, I have to deal with many family members who are extremely worried, sometimes hysterical, and they have heard little to no information about their loved one. I have learned that I am not very good at comforting someone who is completely hysterical, especially when I myself do not know what is going on with their loved one. I have gotten better at doing so, and have realized how hard it must be to be uncertain of the state of someone that you love and care about. My lack of skills in situations like these led me to applying to be a Suicide Hotline Volunteer at North Central Mental Health Services this upcoming semester. As part of becoming a hotline volunteer, there is a fifty-hour training session that teaches volunteers how to comfort and help someone in a vulnerable state. I know that this will be useful for me now and in my future; as I will likely have to deliver bad news to people as a physician in my future.
During the second half of my sophomore year, I was having second thoughts about becoming a physician. Up until this point, I had never really questioned my decision to take this career path, but as I thought more and more about it, I was really unsure as to if I would be happy when I was done with this long road of schooling, residency, and fellowship. This summer allowed me to view a hospital setting from a different point of view than I ever had been able to before and re-inspired my drive to commit to a future in healthcare. While there are still many uncertainties in terms of the road our healthcare system is taking by the time I become a physician, I have decided that I will commit to become the kind of doctor I want to be—and I am now confident that I can do so.