As I helped wheel a patient into the Emergency Department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital to check in, I heard a loud noise as if someone or something struck the window of the building. In my peripheral sight, I noticed that someone had collapsed. I quickly locked the wheels of the wheelchair and ran to the woman who had fallen. As her body shook and her mouth filled with foam, I instantly knew that she was having a seizure. Without a second thought, I turned the woman’s body to her side to keep her airway clear, looked at my watch to time the length of her seizure, and called for help. After a few seconds, the nurse ran out of the Emergency Department to help the woman. My training and certification in basic life support, or BLS, actively prepared me to not only physically handle the demands of performing life-saving techniques, but it also taught me how to remain calm in emergencies.
After graduating from Davidson College with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, I knew that I wanted to become a doctor. However, I still lacked the necessary experiences to be a competitive applicant for medical school. After moving back to Chicago, I enrolled in a BLS course, became certified, and volunteered in the Emergency Department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I also volunteered at a food pantry that served patients who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These opportunities allowed me to expand my skill set and my experiences working in healthcare settings. Without being trained in BLS, I would not have been physically ready for the demands of working in these environments. The BLS class taught me how to check pulses, evaluate airways, perform mouth-to-mouth ventilation and compressions, and use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Ultimately, these skills were necessary to execute life-saving techniques in those high-stress settings.
Completing the BLS course also mentally trained me to work in various healthcare environments. When volunteering at the food pantry, I knew that all of my patients have HIV or AIDS. Thus, I looked for common symptoms: nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, and I became hypervigilant, as fainting among my patients was more likely to occur. Furthermore, in the Emergency Department, I worked with patients who had a range of symptoms from migraines to blurred vision to severe chest pains. When patients checked in, I greeted them and asked for their identification card. While the front-desk representative checked the patients in, I asked them about their symptoms, all while taking mental notes if an emergent situation were to occur. My training in BLS mentally prepared me to stay composed even in highly stressful and life-threatening circumstances.
Transitioning to medical school will grant me opportunities to prepare physically and mentally to carry out life-saving techniques on patients. During my pre-clinical years of medical school, I will renew my BLS certification and become certified in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS), gain experiences with simulations and patient encounters, shadow alongside doctors in the clinics and hospitals, and volunteer across the city. I will learn and develop skills from leading healthcare professionals on how to act during emergencies. Additionally, I will have many trials and errors during labs, which start as early as the first week of medical school. These labs will mimic real-life situations where simulation mannequins can experience respiratory or cardiac arrest, allowing me to make those mistakes and physically perfect my skills. Thus, I can learn from them and avoid those same mistakes when I perform rotations during my clinical years of medical school.
Mental preparedness is just as important as physical readiness to execute life-saving techniques. In medical school, I will interact with simulation models and patient actors, and expand my early clinical experiences, which will mentally train me for high-stress environments. During my clinical years, I will carry out rotations alongside physicians in various fields and receive the necessary training to prepare me mentally for crises. As emergencies occur, I will witness how physicians and other medical providers proceed in moving quickly, but efficiently. Additionally, these opportunities will help me adapt to such circumstances, teaching me how to stay composed even in dire situations. Witnessing and experiencing these predicaments alongside competent healthcare professionals will ultimately train my body and mind to react appropriately when a given situation occurs.
Deciding to pursue a career in a healthcare profession requires significant physical and mental preparation. Whether an individual wants to be a doctor, physical therapist, or dentist, the wellbeing of the patient is in the hands of the healthcare provider. To pursue a career in such a demanding field, one must always be receptive to constructive feedback. Additionally, one must also be confident in oneself and remain calm in challenging environments. One must also prepare to work in highly stressful settings; thus, one must always practice their skills through training courses, prepare for the physical and mental demands of the career, and stay current with medical and healthcare developments.
My BLS training helped me save a life that day I volunteered in the Emergency Department. I also realized that my life-saving skills not only helped me while I volunteered at hospitals and clinics, but I was also prepared to use these skills wherever I went, whether that be the movies or the mall. As I enroll in my first year of medical school this upcoming summer, I will be able to strengthen my physical and mental skills before performing life-saving techniques on patients throughout my career. In medical school and residency, I will have a multitude of opportunities to listen and learn from the best medical professionals, and practice these skills alongside trained physicians. Thus, my goal is simple: not only do I want my patients to trust me with their lives, but I also want to trust myself in saving my patients’ lives.