Growing Seeds of Wisdom
Glavielinys Cruz ‘07
Patient Representatives In the Department of Emergency Services
“ Growing seeds of wisdom: one perspective, one life, one community at a time.”
~ Tucker Foundation, Dartmouth College
Being a part of Tucker Foundation’s numerous volunteer programs is stepping outside of the box and venturing beyond one’s comfort zone to aid others in distress and in need of help. As a Dartmouth Partners in Community Service (DPCS) Intern during the Fall 2006, I realized the importance of humanitarian work and its effect in both social and personal levels.
Being an individual willing to actively make a difference is what Parker J. Palmer writes about in his book, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation”. During his career of teaching, he openly admitted that he “…will never be a good teacher for students who insist on remaining wallflowers throughout their careers…” (53). Such a powerful statement made me reflect and come to the conclusion that by agreeing to volunteer and serve others I was refusing to remain a wallflower throughout my Dartmouth career. By actively creating positive changes through service, I am led to a stronger sense of meaning and purpose.
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Before beginning my internship, I went through a series of interviews and orientation sessions at the Lawrence Greater Family Health Center and at the Lawrence General Hospital. It was vital that I familiarized with my surroundings before being able to interact with patient needs and necessities. Recognized as a PRIDE Volunteer (Patient Representatives In the Department of Emergency Services), I was interviewed by the Volunteer Services Coordinator (Betsy Rayner) who introduced me to the Emergency Department nurse manager at the hospital. I observed 16 hours with an experienced PRIDE volunteer before beginning my service. My numerous interviews consisted of a depiction of the responsibilities and tasks that were going to be required of me during my 10-week service. Volunteers are expected to give a minimum commitment of one year, but because I was on an off-term, I was allowed to serve for just two months, with an open invitation to return in the future.
In order to serve others, one must have the desire and ability to deal compassionately with people and also have respect for confidentiality concerning individuals and their families. As a hospital volunteer, I agreed to work independently within the limits of the PRIDE responsibility list and have a mature personality, enabling me to work effectively in a stressful and fast-paced environment.
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History of Lawrence General Hospital
Lawrence General Hospital works in conjunction with the four local Greater Lawrence Family Health Centers located in the city of Lawrence. As it has for over a century, Lawrence General Hospital is committed to identifying and serving the health care needs of the community with compassion, integrity and ever-improving quality. Through the PRIDE volunteer program, I promoted and encouraged good citizenship while helping them strive to be leaders in the resolution of issues related to community health. The Lawrence General Health system is considered the region’s leading health care network. Sharing the same vision and values, all employees, physicians, health care providers and community leaders, strive to promote improvements in the community’s health status through collaboration. Their name is synonymous with innovation, leadership and quality.
Lawrence General Hospital’s mission of care began in 1875 when it was founded by the Ladies Union Charitable Society. It was the first hospital in the central Merrimack Valley of Northeastern Massachusetts. The commitment to the health needs of the community continues today, deeply rooted in their values of quality, integrity, compassion and service. In May of 2006, the Lawrence General Hospital cut the ribbon for its new and improved Emergency Center, tripling the size of the old emergency facility. Patients and families benefit from 41 private exam areas with spacious rooms and is currently the 5th busiest emergency service in the state. Private, not-for-profit Lawrence General is the only locally controlled hospital in the central Merrimack Valley serving places like Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, North Andover and Greater Salem, NH. Lawrence General has been first to bring many health care innovations to the Merrimack Valley. The hospital was the first in Massachusetts to obtain Level III Trauma Center status in 2000. The Level III provides coverage by specialists in emergency medicine and always has a surgeon and operating team on standby.
The relationship of Lawrence General and Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is a healthcare access success story. Twenty-five years ago, through support by Lawrence General, a community-based group founded the Center that now provides primary care for 70% of Lawrence residents. A collaborative teaching program of the Hospital and Health Center trains family practice resident physicians who have made a commitment to serve in areas of poverty.
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I volunteered all of my time in the Emergency Department and did a variety of things. I helped translate from English to Spanish (and vice versa) when a translator was not available at a given time. I helped prepare the rooms before new patients arrived (included disinfecting beds, changing sheets/pillows). When needed, I helped register patients and answer phone calls in the front desk. Also, I helped the nurses transport patients to the x-ray rooms and to various locations in the hospital (such as the ultrasound room). Apart from all that, I was a patient advocate. This involved me going from room to room and spending time talking to the patients (and their family members) and trying to make their stay in the Emergency Department as less painful as possible. This varied from talking to patients for about 20 minutes at a time, to helping them find an interesting show on t.v, to providing them with newspapers/magazines, to bringing them small snacks and food/drinks if they got hungry. I was constantly interacting with others as 100% of my time in the hospital was spent in contact with patients; something I was looking forward to doing. It was a wonderful and fulfilling experience, way beyond what my words can fully depict. I’m extremely happy and content with my time spent in the hospital and would do it again! The person in charge of volunteering services at LGH is encouraging me to volunteer again during my summer vacation. I felt the time I spent in Lawrence flew by. It was a great and positive experience.
I had several responsibilities and duties during my 10-week internship at the hospital. Under the direction of the RN manager, I provided companionship and support to patients and their family members, offered comfort to patients in the form of a pillow, blanket and even empathy, and also ran errands to various departments (such as lab, x-ray, medical records). My other daily responsibilities included:
- registering patients
- arranging transportation for patients
- assisting with linens and change carriers
- directing people to locations within the hospital
- helping patients and families to make phone calls
- answering phone calls, especially when in Spanish
- watching children of patients for short periods, when requested
- facilitating communications between families in the waiting rooms
During my lunch breaks, I would read a section of Palmer’s book and contemplate on how almost every page was a reflection of my experience at the hospital. All throughout my internship, I was guided by four important values that helped serve as my mission statement: compassion, integrity, quality and service. Such values can be intertwined with a passage from Palmer’s book that states, “The Quaker teacher Douglas Steere was fond of saying that the ancient human question ‘Who am I’ leads inevitably to the equally important question ‘Whose am I?’-for there is no selfhood outside of relationship” (17). Compassion is sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it. The hospital values compassion and empathizes with the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and injured. Integrity is trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust. I learned a deeper value of integrity while volunteering by building relationships that were ethical, honest and consistent with the hospital mission. Quality is a degree of excellence as perceived by those served. The quality of work was measured by my actions as I strived for excellence in meeting patients’ needs. Equally as important as the rest, service can be described as concentrating on the expectation of the people served by, or involved in an organization. Lawrence General Hospital values service and responds to and tries to exceed the expectations of those served by or involved in their health care system.
Parker J. Palmer would agree with the hospital’s mission statement and values as he comments that, “ Only when I know both seed and system, self and community, can I embody the great commandment to love both my neighbor and myself” (17). Self and community go hand in hand; there truly is ‘ no selfhood outside of relationship’.
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First Day Impressions
I was extremely eager and excited to begin my internship at the hospital. I was looking forward to working with patients and providing them with individualized attention and care. However, I wasn’t expecting to have such an intense first day. After being shown around the recently opened Emergency Department (it opened its doors in the Spring of 2006), I was introduced to the head nurse. But, our encounter was abruptly cut short due to the arrival of a patient to one of the three resuscitation rooms. Apparently, a mid-aged woman had been rushed to the Emergency Department because her husband had strangled her. Paramedics and nurses swarmed the resuscitation room with medical equipment and tried to revive the patient who seemed to be losing the battle. After about 10 minutes of no response, the patient was declared dead.
Needless to say, this was a very shocking situation for me since I had never seen a dead body before. It was also very hard to see the faces of the paramedics and nursing staff as they silently prepared the body and put away the medical equipment in utter silence. Words weren’t necessary to express the solemn situation. At that moment, the head nurse walked with me out of the room and explained the ups and downs of being in the Emergency Department. She said that I must be prepared for situations like those and be “thick-skinned” in the medical field.
Sadly, that wasn’t the only fatal incident I encountered while being at the hospital. I can say that after my first day, I felt more prepared to tackle on those types of situations. I learned that people cannot be gods and that the medical staff does what it can to provide the best care possible. As a pre-med student, volunteering at Lawrence General was very beneficial because I got a first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in a hospital setting and in an environment I will become a part of in the near future.
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One of the most important aspects of the Dartmouth Partners in Community Service and my overall volunteer experience at Lawrence General Hospital was the mentorship program. I was privileged not only to have a mentor, but to have TWO who worked in the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. One of my mentors, John Raser is a 2001 Dartmouth graduate and a 2006 Dartmouth Medical School graduate.
Andy Smith, my second mentor, is a 1998 Dartmouth graduate and a 2004 Dartmouth Medical School graduate. Both were always very willing to answer my questions and address any concerns that I had.
As undergraduates, they were motivated to volunteer and also participated in DPCS fellowships and internships. John did his DPCS fellowship in the Dominican Republic while Andy also did a DPCS fellowship during his junior year and went to Alaska to work for “Challenge Alaska”. Now he is in his third year of a family residency at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.
Having a mentor is beneficial in many ways because there is always someone available to help you transition. My mentors were great resources available to answer questions and also individuals who have “been there” and willing to help out. John and Andy were ideal for me because their close proximity to the area of Lawrence allowed for easy communication. Although both were constricted to a very rigorous and demanding schedule, they still made the effort to introduce themselves to me, talk about their experiences, and remain in close contact since early Fall. The time and dedication they have placed in the mentorship aspect of the DPCS program is greatly appreciated. Simply because my service at the hospital has ended doesn’t mean our line of communication has. That is the best aspect of having a mentor; you build relationships for a lifetime.
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As I embark upon a new trimester at Dartmouth, I ask myself, “ What have I done and should continue to do in order to be successful and serve others?” While there is no magic formula for finding success, nor a single definition of success, I do believe that there are some basic principles that allow us to be successful in life. Drive, perseverance, courage, faith, and truth are all needed in the journey to success and service.
Drive is the desire to work hard. In order to obtain our goals, one will have to put in the time to make our dreams a reality. Having drive requires a personal discipline that is focused on completing tasks to the best of one’s ability. Perseverance is the act of persisting despite difficulties. During my educational experience and throughout my life, I will face obstacles and problems. It is important to persevere through rough times. Always remembering that just as troubles arise, they will also subside is key. Courage is the ability to overcome one’s despair or fear. When we are courageous, that does not mean that we will never be afraid. On the contrary, fear is a natural part of the human experience. So to possess courage is to be aware of one’s fears, weaknesses, or liabilities and to still go forth in achieving one’s goals. Once you are aware of your limitations, you can compensate by utilizing your strengths to achieve educational and life goals. Palmer includes a wonderful passage in his book that speaks about fear and parallels my reflections. He comments:
We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places
as well- places with names like trust and hope and faith. We
can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on
ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move
toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety.
As we stand in one of those places, fear may remain close at
hand and our spirits may still tremble. But now we stand on
ground that will support us, ground from which we can lead
others towards a more trustworthy, more hopeful, more faithful
way of being in the world (94).
The faith Palmer speaks about refers to a complete and full trust in yourself. I have learned that the most important part of being successful is a belief that no matter what the circumstances are, you can make it through. Once you have faith, you can act on that faith in a powerful way. Whatever it is that you want to achieve in life, visualize yourself doing or being it before it ever occurs. Faith is believing that things can be, before they actually are. Truth is your ability to be true to yourself. Part of being successful is being honest with yourself about who you are and what you really want out of your life, including your education. If you have the ability to be honest about what will truly make you happy and what you will have to do to achieve that happiness, then you can set a course for obtaining and maintaining that joy in your life. Possessing drive, perseverance, courage, faith, and truth in my education and community will help me meet success in life.
As future leaders of America, it is important to evaluate and re-evaluate the purpose of our education and service. It’s vital to return to our communities and be a role model and encourage others to continue their education and fulfill their hearts’ desire. In addition to the poverty levels in our communities, there are high rates of gang related issues, drug and alcohol use, suicides and additional factors that affect our people. Through our education, we have the capacity to make positive changes in the lives of our families, communities, and at extended levels. The work we do in this life is the rent that we pay to live in this world. We are the voices for the generations to come.
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The End of a Beginning
The time I spent volunteering in the Emergency Department of the Lawrence General Hospital was a period of reflection and contemplation that has strengthened and fortified my values. With Parker Palmer’s book under my arm, I was able to parallel its content and moral questions with my volunteer service. In doing so, I have been able to understand and explore my inner voice and question how I’ve been letting my ‘life speak’, not literally with my voice but through service.
Towards the end of his book, Palmer comments that, “We are here not only to transform the world but also to be transformed” (97). I have learned that by volunteering we not only help others but we help ourselves grow as individuals. It is through service that we fortify the relationship with our community. My intention was to return to Lawrence, my hometown, and give back with time, service and dedication all it has given me throughout the years. Thanks to the Tucker Foundation and the Dartmouth Partners in Community Service Program, I was able to do just that. Through action and example, I can show others the benefit of community service and share with my Dartmouth peers the many wonderful experiences I had at Lawrence General Hospital. In doing so, I hope to plant ‘growing seeds of wisdom’ in everyone I encounter and encourage them to create positive change ‘one perspective, one life, one community at a time’.