Sara Houstina - Pacific Medical Training scholarship essay

Submitted 2023-03-17

To say that you can ever be fully prepared to perform life saving techniques on another human is almost impossible. In a moment where someone’s life is on the line, you are working against the clock and all preparedness feels futile. Although it may feel impossible to be prepared, it is not. Within each step to becoming a healthcare provider, we are exposed to a glimpse of what these lifesaving procedures may look like. The process can be grueling and involves practicing medicine on various levels. On my path to medical school, I have worked and volunteered in different settings, in each of these settings I was able to watch and participate in life saving procedures. Patients put their faith into us as healthcare professionals, so no matter how small or large your task may seem at the time, patients are counting on us. I have learned the importance of maintaining care of a patient to prevent any life saving measures being taken, but when we are faced with it, remaining calm and confident is important. I am excited to share my experiences and hope to inspire others to work towards their goals. 

I began my healthcare career as a certified nursing assistant, in this position the preparation for lifesaving procedures looks very different from what I will experience in the future as a physician. In my role as a CNA, I prepared myself by familiarizing myself with my patients’ everyday “norm” and recognizing any red flags in their behavior. In a rehabilitation home patients’ health can make a turn very quickly, being diligent in everyday care is what helped me to stay prepared in this role. I was able to directly observe lifesaving procedures, as well as take care of those once they have passed on. Working as a CNA will open your eyes to geriatric care and how patients and families handle death and lifesaving measures. The next position I was able to gain experience in was working as a patient care technician at an urgent care. The variety and severity of patients we were treating increased dramatically. In this role, it was necessary for me to think quickly and make decisions in the patient’s best interest. Here I would prepare by asking questions to our providers about what kind of symptoms may be a concern to them. I made sure I knew the correct ranges for vitals and lab work to ensure I could notify the providers in case of any abnormalities in the patient’s triage. This position helped me to build confidence in my understanding of life-threatening situations and allowed me to work alongside EMTs, medics and providers specialized in emergency medicine. Urgent care can sometimes feel like an emergency room when the medical field is overwhelmed, and we often took care of patients who should have been at the ER. This allowed me to observe the “organized chaos” of treating someone in an emergency. My current role in the healthcare field is as a medical assistant in urgent care. In this position I prepare by checking all the expiration dates on our lifesaving tools, by staying up to date on training, and having open conversations with the other staff. My preparedness also involves knowing how to draw and administer medications to patients, obtain manual vitals, and perform ECG/diagnostic care quickly and safely. I have had direct experience on a care team who has had to work efficiently to stabilize a patient before 911 is called. In all my roles I have gained an understanding of what it means to be resilient and focused when performing lifesaving procedures. My preparation has changed in each role, and it will continue to do so throughout my career in healthcare.

One of the biggest challenges in moments like those is to be confident in your care and decisions as a healthcare provider. No matter what position you may hold on the care team, you are essential to that patient and need to know how to act in the instance where live saving care is needed. The best way to be prepared is staying up to date on your patients as well as the newest medical recommendations. We have to be honest with ourselves as healthcare professionals and admit when we do not know something, you must be open to asking questions and being uncomfortable. Pushing yourself to be the best provider you can be is the best way to be prepared to save someone’s life. Although we wish we could, we cannot save every life. As a provider you should be able to look back on every situation where life saving measures were taken and know that you did your absolute best. You worked efficiently and confidently, if you have done those two things then no matter the outcome, you are doing your job and serving your patients. Being a thorough provider in day-to-day care helps to prevent the need for life saving techniques. Preparedness and prevention go hand in hand. As a medical student I will be utilizing each experience I have had in medicine, taking skills from each step to prepare for life saving situations. Mentally I will continue to push myself to understand that death is dealt with differently by everyone. Honoring and respecting a patient’s wishes is a large part of life saving techniques and I feel confident that my exposure thus far has prepared me for those interactions.

I know that I have a long journey ahead and I have not even begun to scratch the surface of lifesaving procedures, but I know that my experiences have helped to challenge me to this point. I have pushed myself to become confident in my abilities and will continue to do so in my future as a physician.