The following is a reflection from a UNC medical student who came to Transitions LifeCare to shadow one of our physicians.

The morning had just begun and Dr. Thompson was taking me on a tour of the Hospice Home. The first person I met who was not an employee of Transitions LifeCare was an older gentleman sitting in the waiting area. The doctor took a moment to say hello, getting down on one knee to meet the older man at eye level. “Is there anything I can do for you at this time?” he asked. The man replied with a “No, thank you,” and a warm smile. Later that morning, Dr. Thompson led me to a hallway where many others had gathered. I stood quietly as we observed the body of a recently deceased patient being rolled down the hallway. I then noticed the man we had met that same morning. “Thank you everyone,” he said as he slowly walked down the hall with his head down.

I was later told that the patient was the man’s son who had passed away at an early age due to alcoholic liver disease. I never got the name of the man or the son he had lost, but I knew there was a story here. A story that I would never know the details of, but one that had nevertheless occurred. Perhaps there were regrets, forgiveness, and maybe even acceptance during the patient’s struggle with liver disease and his final days of life. All I knew was that it must have been a story that had undoubtedly made an enormous impact on all those involved.

Navigating life-changing events

I began to wonder how many people we walk by each day who are working through a difficult loss or navigating a life-changing event. This made me realize how special the relationship between patients and their care providers at hospice could be. During my time at Transitions LifeCare, I felt immensely privileged each time I entered a room and met a patient and their family. The patients trusted us to be present at the bedside during their most vulnerable moments and their friends and family looked to us for guidance and support. I can’t imagine the incredible responsibility hospice caregivers must feel helping patients and their families navigate the end of life. I believe that family members will always remember the conversations they shared at the bedside of their loved ones. They may not remember every word that was spoken by the care team, but they will remember exactly how the hospice team made them feel during their time of grief and uncertainty. Every time friends and family think back on the death of their loved one, they will also think back on the team of hospice caregivers and how they were there for them each step of the way. After my time at Transitions LifeCare, I feel that I have a better understanding of what draws patients to hospice and what draws health care providers to work in this rewarding field.

--student, UNC School of Medicine