Jessica La submitted 2017-07-08

For the past 4 years, I have prepared myself to perform life saving techniques as a Basic Life Support (BLS) and HeartSaver First Aid (HSFA) instructor. After teaching many classes and certifying hundreds of students, the curriculum and technique in performing CPR is engraved into my brain. Through this experience, I have interacted with health care providers from all fields ranging from physicians to nurses to EMTs. Although I am the instructor of the class, I find myself learning from my students as well. Gaining insight into other professions within the field of healthcare has given me a better understanding of the reality of being in medicine. It is mentally challenging, emotionally draining, and physically exhausting but exceptionally rewarding.

Aside from teaching students how to perform CPR, I also instill confidence in their abilities and act fast in an emergency situation. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is better to perform compressions on a victim who may not need it than to delay compressions for someone who does. Students have expressed their concerns about hurting the patient when performing CPR, however, I remind them that high quality CPR and defibrillation is key in resuscitating a patient. Therefore, there is no time for hesitation or self-doubt. The skills required in performing any task takes two parts- physical and mental. I strive to mimic a stressful environment so that my students can experience the feeling of urgency in a real-life situation. I could imagine students who would question their abilities during an emergency, fearing the worst- letting a patient die. It is important to carry confidence when interacting with colleagues and patients as they confide in providers to treat them

The first time I witnessed a code blue and performed compressions on a patient was when I volunteered at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. As a volunteer, it was important for me to be proactive to optimize my learning experience. I was walking around the unit, assisting nurses and making sure patients are comfortable. As I was walking by room 602, I saw a nurse frantically assess for responsiveness and realize that her patient was in cardiac arrest. She quickly activated the emergency response system and I was at the right place at the right time. The nurse shouted for me to start compressions- I did not think twice about it. I was so excited to finally perform compressions on a cardiac arrest patient rather than a manikin. I had been teaching BLS for 2 years and this was the first time I was able to apply my knowledge in a clinical setting. It was nerve wrecking to say the least, but it was an experience I will never forget. With each volunteer shift at the hospital, it re-affirms my desire to become part of a team of providers who will work towards achieving a common goal of advocating for patient’s health.

The only way to prepare oneself both mentally and physically for a career in medicine is to continually expose myself to challenging situations in the hospital setting. From my experience shadowing a cardiothoracic physician in performing a coronary artery bypass grafting procedure, I witnessed the team of providers work seamlessly together. It was my first time observing an open-heart surgery and it was an eye-opening experience to see a beating heart gradually stop as the providers operate. After the procedure, I complimented the physician and tried to understand how he mastered the procedure. The heart is arguably the single most important organ necessary in keeping a person alive. A single mistake can be fatal and I can imagine how stressful it could be that a patient’s life is dependent upon the team of provider’s performance. However, with practice and repetition, the task will be effortless.

I have developed a passion for teaching the knowledge and skills necessary to react quickly in life threatening situations. Through my experiences from volunteering at the hospital, teaching BLS/HSFA, and shadowing healthcare providers in the operation room, I am inspired to pursue a career in medicine. Emergency medicine is an exciting field, requiring providers to react rapidly without overlooking important details. When given the opportunity to assist a health care provider in a hands-on procedure, I will never decline. Granted, I will make mistakes but the best time to make mistakes is as a student. As a volunteer observing healthcare providers, my role in providing patient care is extremely limited. I am eager to play an active role in patient care as an advanced practitioner, treat a patient and be involved in creating their plan of care. I will be continuing my education at Hofstra University to obtain my Masters in Physician Assistant Studies.