Volunteering - The Key To Discovering A Career?

On the first day of school in second grade, we were filling out the typical “All About Me” worksheets. My teacher was doing her rounds around the tables. When she came to my table, she asked us if we knew what we wanted to be when we grew older. One girl said she wanted to be a teacher. Another boy said he wanted to be a police officer, just like his father. The teacher turned to me and asked me what I wanted to be. I answered that I wanted to be a pediatrician. She said, “Nice! Do you know how to spell that?”. I replied that I did not. She walked over to her table and brought me back a Post-It note which had the word written in capital letters: “P-E-D-I-A-T-R-I-C-I-A-N”. On the back of my worksheet I drew a picture of me in a doctor’s coat. I grabbed a silver marker and wrote the word above the drawing. I took a step back and made a silent promise to myself that this would be me in twenty years. 

At the time, I had only seen the profession through the lens of a patient - I loved diving into the treasure box, bursting into happiness when I recovered a Scentos sticker. Unlike most children, having an appointment for a physical or a shot with the pediatrician had me on my toes. 

Being an immigrant in a foreign land can be a frightening experience for many children. Moving here at just five, I could barely speak English the entire Kindergarten year. But I worked hard. I would literally come home and imitate an American accent. By the first grade, I was mastering the language better than many of the native English speakers in my class. If I could overcome such a huge language barrier in a year, I told myself, what could possibly stop me from following my dreams? 

Our word of the year in Second Grade was “rigor”. Every year since, each of my classes have had some sort of theme connected to grit and rigor. Every class required some form of determination from me. I started giving my all to my coursework and it heavily bestowed me in return. I absolutely loved science and math above all else. 

A plethora of events have happened in my life since second grade - between being bullied repeatedly by my peers throughout elementary school, to moving to this town, making friends of a lifetime, and finally ‘fitting it’. 

It only seemed natural to me then that I allow the one thing that has stayed the same all these years - my goal to be a pediatrician - to flourish. I had been a zealous volunteer - volunteering over a 100 hours at the local library in just one year. There, I enjoyed working with children and helping out in whatever aspects I could. At the age of fourteen, I made the bold decision that I wanted to start volunteering at a nearby hospital. 

Walking in for my interview on the first day was an amazing experience. I had only visited the hospital thrice in total - one to visit an ailing relative, and twice to visit my newborn siblings. Seeing the well-oiled parts of a hospital working in perfect unity was beautiful to watch. I did fine in the interview, and before I knew it, I was spending the summer in and out of the hospital. 

I was completing numerous tasks - from transporting time sensitive lab samples from the Emergency Departments to the hospital laboratory, to directing families in the right direction to meet their loved ones, and making flower deliveries to patients. 

Seeing the happiness on the face of a new mother, delivering flowers to the elderly there who have not seen their own children in a long time … - all of it became the highlight of my summer days. 

Of course, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes, you may walk onto the floor when a Code Bat (Stroke) or Code Blue (Respiratory/Cardiac Arrest) is called. I did not know what these codes initially were, but volunteering so much gave me the opportunity to truly learn, to truly see - something that I am sure will prove useful in the future. 

I remember a woman, a victim of a car accident, walking into the hospital and about to collapse. Getting her into a wheelchair and bringing her to an emergency has been one of the most blessed experiences of my life. I will always remember her saying “God bless you” to me as I left her with a paramedic. My coworkers answered any and all questions I had about this profession. Seeing these patients has just strengthened my resolve to help them. 

Working in a hospital has truly opened my eyes to this profession. I realize that being a doctor is not just giving treasure boxes to children. It is caring for every aspect about them. It is seeing those that struggle and giving them a helping hand. It is being a prime example of what humans are made to do, help those that hurt. A doctor is not just someone that gives shots and physicals, they are people that also do chemotherapy, coronary by-pass surgeries, and lung transplants. They are people that insert things into the human brain to stop an aneurysm from rupturing. They are people that regulate levels of anesthetics, the difference between somebody’s life and death. By giving my time freely, I have learned what it means to truly be a doctor. 

It is seeing someone’s suffering and being educated enough to help them. 

Therefore, it is my utmost recommendation that if you have a career goal in mind, try to intern or volunteer in the same setting. See you how you like the environment. Try to learn as much as you can about the profession directly from where it is practiced. The first hand experience might just surprise you. 

My goal was, until then, simply on pen and paper. Volunteering at such an amazing hospital was what made it come to life.

And it looks beautiful.

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