An EC that I didn't really like, but took a significant amount of time?

Sep 1, 2015
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I wasn't really sure how to phrase the title, but I have a dilemma. I volunteered with a hospice organization every week for about a year. I had a significant amount of patient contact with this organization. However, I found the experience to be really difficult for me. Every patient I was assigned was severely demented and most were unable to speak, feed themselves, etc. I couldn't help but picture the people I loved coming to similar ends, and I found myself pretty depressed after each visit. I have logged many hours of other clinical experiences such as shadowing and scribing, and these do not have the same effect on me, even in the 'heavier' fields like oncology. I feel like perhaps through the hospice organization I figured out that palliative care is not for me. However, I'm scared of putting this experience on my app because I feel like ad coms could construe this as me not being a good fit for medicine. I strongly do not think that this is the case, I think that I specifically am a poor fit for palliative care/degenerative disease care, because shifting my definition of hope to purely "death with dignity" is not the aspect of medicine I want to pursue, I would much rather work in a field where I can significantly impact someone's quality of life while they are still mentally present enough to enjoy it, not just make them comfortable for the inevitable end. Should I include this experience in my app or not? And if I do...what do I say about it?
 

mcatjelly

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Why can't you include the experience and just stick to talking about what you learned from it/in what ways you found it meaningful?
 

LizzyM

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You'd be shooting yourself in the foot not to include a volunteer activity that took many hours of your time and that is highly regarded by many adcoms. Don't list this as one of your most meaningful activties and all you'll need to provide is a description of what you did at the facility and not get into why you loathed it.

Also, it sounds like you were in a facility that treated patients on only their last few days of life or were only assigned those dying from dementia. There is more to palliative care/hospice than that; my own father was walking short distances and talking and even cracking jokes with his hospice aide a month before he died of cancer. Even a few days before he died he was still enjoying TV and made a phone call using his iPad with the speaker phone feature (he was too weak to lift a regular phone to his ear) to announce he'd correctly answered the final Jeopardy question.

That said, there are numerous specialties that don't involve degeneration and death. You can always say, if asked, that you learned a lot about yourself and your strengths and interests from that volunteer service.
 

Munty

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Aug 30, 2015
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To me, the description you gave of learning that palliative care wasn't for you and how your other experiences (especially onc) showed that you love the other aspects of medicine and impacting the lives of others. I'm sure you also have gained some experiences from the experience that you don't realize; they could ask you a question you didn't expect that an experience from that organization could apply to. I'm not on any adcom, I'm just a lowly applicant, but from my limited experience in applying it sounds like you should put this down. If it comes up, describe the experience in the same way you described it here.
 
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USvWindsor

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Palliative care isn't exclusive to patients with a terminal diagnosis. The goal of palliative care is to improve the patient's quality of life, make them as comfortable as possible (relieve and prevent suffering), and provide beneficial psych/soc care. Palliative care is actually really great.
 
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Lucca

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Everyone else already gave you the answer you need, I'm just here to tell you to never use the phrase "palliative care isn't for me" in an app or an interview. Considering that "palliation" means "relieving pain" you would essentially be saying you don't want to relieve pain. I get where youre coming from, the prevalence of end of life ordeals was difficult for you and thus made you very uncomfortable. Honestly, that just makes you human and if nothing else it means you have empathy. Just remember that those uncomfortable feelings are not because of palliative care but because dementia and death are extremely difficult issues to grapple if - especially if it is all you see. But avoid the phrase. I guarantee there's at least one ass hole on one admissions committee that is exactly like me and would read "so you don't like relieving pain? Next."

Also, it seems to me like you actually learned a lot from that experience. Something doesn't have to be enjoyable to be meaningful.
 

DokterMom

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Sounds like the work you did was about the most emotionally draining volunteer work imaginable -- dying patients with dementia. Really, it doesn't get much tougher than this. Of course you would be depressed envisioning that kind of end for your loved ones. (Only a sociopath wouldn't be.) And please don't underestimate the value of death with dignity and compassion. You were able to provide that.

Absolutely list this. But also spend some time processing it in your mind to come to terms with the emotional experience, because you WILL be asked about it in your interviews, and this WILL be a chance for you to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. There's a lot of exposure to humanity/life/loss in what you did -- an unusual amount for a young person. You need to get to the point where you can speak about it and what it meant to you and what you learned in a way that is both truthful and compassionate.
 

Goro

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Absolutely include it and send an app to my school!!!!


I wasn't really sure how to phrase the title, but I have a dilemma. I volunteered with a hospice organization every week for about a year. I had a significant amount of patient contact with this organization. However, I found the experience to be really difficult for me. Every patient I was assigned was severely demented and most were unable to speak, feed themselves, etc. I couldn't help but picture the people I loved coming to similar ends, and I found myself pretty depressed after each visit. I have logged many hours of other clinical experiences such as shadowing and scribing, and these do not have the same effect on me, even in the 'heavier' fields like oncology. I feel like perhaps through the hospice organization I figured out that palliative care is not for me. However, I'm scared of putting this experience on my app because I feel like ad coms could construe this as me not being a good fit for medicine. I strongly do not think that this is the case, I think that I specifically am a poor fit for palliative care/degenerative disease care, because shifting my definition of hope to purely "death with dignity" is not the aspect of medicine I want to pursue, I would much rather work in a field where I can significantly impact someone's quality of life while they are still mentally present enough to enjoy it, not just make them comfortable for the inevitable end. Should I include this experience in my app or not? And if I do...what do I say about it?
 
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bc65

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Oct 16, 2013
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It sounds like you had a very meaningful experience. If you just re-think what you learned from your experience, and slightly re-phrase what you wrote about it, you would have a wonderful statement to include in your application, either as a "most meaningful experience" or as part of your personal statement.

First, I would point out that not everyone ends up demented as they age, and that people in certain phases of dementia can be quite happy. You were not uncomfortable with hospice care or palliative care, what you didn't like was caring for people in the terminal stages of dementia. I don't think anyone likes it, and I doubt that many volunteers in your stage of training would have stuck it out as long as you did. But instead of describing the experience as a negative, just describe it as a positive. Make it about what you learned.

A little bit of editing and this would be a great addition to your application.
 
OP
ifnotnowwren
Sep 1, 2015
400
676
Status
Medical Student
Thank you, I really appreciate your response and encouragement. I'm glad to hear that you don't think that my response to this experience was unusual, I was worried that being sensitive in this way would be a mark against me. I 100% need to figure out how to frame the experience for my interviews and get comfortable with the ways in which I could be asked about it.

Sounds like the work you did was about the most emotionally draining volunteer work imaginable -- dying patients with dementia. Really, it doesn't get much tougher than this. Of course you would be depressed envisioning that kind of end for your loved ones. (Only a sociopath wouldn't be.) And please don't underestimate the value of death with dignity and compassion. You were able to provide that.

Absolutely list this. But also spend some time processing it in your mind to come to terms with the emotional experience, because you WILL be asked about it in your interviews, and this WILL be a chance for you to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. There's a lot of exposure to humanity/life/loss in what you did -- an unusual amount for a young person. You need to get to the point where you can speak about it and what it meant to you and what you learned in a way that is both truthful and compassionate.
 
OP
ifnotnowwren
Sep 1, 2015
400
676
Status
Medical Student
Thank you, that's definitely something I will be re-phrasing so that it more accurately reflects what I meant!

Everyone else already gave you the answer you need, I'm just here to tell you to never use the phrase "palliative care isn't for me" in an app or an interview. Considering that "palliation" means "relieving pain" you would essentially be saying you don't want to relieve pain. I get where youre coming from, the prevalence of end of life ordeals was difficult for you and thus made you very uncomfortable. Honestly, that just makes you human and if nothing else it means you have empathy. Just remember that those uncomfortable feelings are not because of palliative care but because dementia and death are extremely difficult issues to grapple if - especially if it is all you see. But avoid the phrase. I guarantee there's at least one ass hole on one admissions committee that is exactly like me and would read "so you don't like relieving pain? Next."

Also, it seems to me like you actually learned a lot from that experience. Something doesn't have to be enjoyable to be meaningful.
 
OP
ifnotnowwren
Sep 1, 2015
400
676
Status
Medical Student
Thank you, that was very helpful!

To me, the description you gave of learning that palliative care wasn't for you and how your other experiences (especially onc) showed that you love the other aspects of medicine and impacting the lives of others. I'm sure you also have gained some experiences from the experience that you don't realize; they could ask you a question you didn't expect that an experience from that organization could apply to. I'm not on any adcom, I'm just a lowly applicant, but from my limited experience in applying it sounds like you should put this down. If it comes up, describe the experience in the same way you described it here.
 
OP
ifnotnowwren
Sep 1, 2015
400
676
Status
Medical Student
Thank you, I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sad I didn't get to see that side of hospice care first hand, I would have loved to have met a person like your father. I think you gave me some valuable advice, I'll definitely need to work on figuring out how to phrase and frame everything. But it's really nice to know that this isn't some Achilles heel that will yield an automatic rejection for my application.

You'd be shooting yourself in the foot not to include a volunteer activity that took many hours of your time and that is highly regarded by many adcoms. Don't list this as one of your most meaningful activties and all you'll need to provide is a description of what you did at the facility and not get into why you loathed it.

Also, it sounds like you were in a facility that treated patients on only their last few days of life or were only assigned those dying from dementia. There is more to palliative care/hospice than that; my own father was walking short distances and talking and even cracking jokes with his hospice aide a month before he died of cancer. Even a few days before he died he was still enjoying TV and made a phone call using his iPad with the speaker phone feature (he was too weak to lift a regular phone to his ear) to announce he'd correctly answered the final Jeopardy question.

That said, there are numerous specialties that don't involve degeneration and death. You can always say, if asked, that you learned a lot about yourself and your strengths and interests from that volunteer service.
 
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