Health Care Experience with Patients, Families, and Individuals with Health Issues
When you engage with patients and/or their families, or individuals who have heath issues, you will see what health care is like at the individual level. People who are ill may be anxious, stressed and unsure. Some health issues are immediate and severe; others are chronic and have significant effects on lifestyle; some have great effects on a family. You may consider yourself a "people person" and are convinced you want to have a career in which you work with others. However, working with individuals who are ill presents a different kind of challenge. You may find that you genuinely enjoy helping individuals who are sick, or you may find that you do not, and this can lead you to re-evaluate your career goals. Working with patients, families and individuals who have health issues will help you develop communication skills so that you can talk, listen and communicate easily with individuals, especially those who are different from you in age, socioeconomic background, culture, beliefs, etc. The ability to empathize and show support is important in health care. But perhaps the most meaningful outcome is learning that serving others in a health care environment will be an important part of your life.
If you are just beginning to gain experience, then your first activities may be indirect and observational, e.g., staffing a hospitality cart in a hospital, transporting patients, reading and talking with individuals in retirement homes, or playing with ill children. As you gain experience, you may choose more direct care, e.g., as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), a Hospital Scribe, in home health care, or hospice program.
You may choose to spend a few hours each week during a fall or spring semester at Duke, or you may gain most of your experience at home during breaks and in the summer. For medical, dental and veterinary schools, there is generally no minimum number of hours required although many students will accumulate a hundred hours or more. For physical therapy and physician assistant programs, the number of hours of documented clinical experience can be quite large.