Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Never Underestimate Anyone... 
They Just Might Become a
 Role Model in Your Life

When thinking of a role model, I tend to look for someone older and wiser than myself who can give me direction in my life. My parents, professors, and clinical instructors have all played a role in shaping me into who I am not only as a future physical therapist, but one who looks beyond the condition to see the entire patient. With all of these great people in my life molding and directing me towards my personal goals, I could have never imagined that a 16-year-old girl living in a remote village in Belize would have such a profound impact on my life.
            July of this year marked the beginning of my journey to the small, impoverished city of Punta Gorda, Belize. I worked at the Hillside Healthcare Clinic with a group of physical therapy, medical, and pharmacy students to provide health care to individuals living in Punta Gorda and the surrounding Mayan villages. The physical therapy program is a newly developed program at the clinic and one of the first in Belize; there is a lot of skepticism from the patients about the treatments provided. The concept of improved health without the use of medication is a new concept for the population. There is only one therapist in the entire Southern region of the country of Belize. She is responsible for administering treatment to all of the patients, building the rehabilitation department, and gaining the trust of patients. To assist the therapist, a 16-year-old high school graduate from a nearby village was hired as a restorative aid.
            When I learned that I was going to be training a 16-year-old to have her own caseload of patients, I was apprehensive. Not only was she going to be performing exercises with them, but assessing their general health status and walking with them. Caring for patients and understanding and assessing their needs is a huge challenge, especially when there is not another health care provider checking in on them. However, as soon as I met her, I could see that she was the perfect fit for the job. Although she was very soft spoken at first, I could tell there was a spark in her to learn and a passion for caring. Working at Hillside while furthering her education was a gift for both her and her family; she was taking full advantage of the opportunity.
            From the first day watching her pour over her torn anatomy textbook memorizing muscle actions and nerve pathways between patient visits, I was continually amazed at her passion for learning. This continued through our final training session performing fall recovery skills. When she was observing treatment sessions, she was very attentive and always wanted to understand why I was doing a certain exercise or test. Getting an education is something I have always taken for granted. Working with her caused me to realized how privileged I am and how it is my professional duty to pass on the knowledge I have received. There have been times in the clinic when I have been afraid to ask questions, but she taught me how much knowledge can be gained from not being afraid to inquire about what you do not know or understand.
            Not only did she learn about diseases and treatment options, but she also gained confidence in her ability to work with patients. During the first few weeks, she was very intimidated to even introduce herself and take the patients’ blood pressure. As she became more comfortable in the clinic, I was able to watch her become more assertive and flourish in her position. She takes her responsibility very seriously and has genuine compassion for the patients in her care.
            Although it was my job to convey my knowledge about physical therapy and treating patients to her, she taught me more about my profession than I will ever gain from a text book or classroom lecture. She taught me about true passion for learning. More importantly, she taught me that every person in the clinic from the receptionist to the therapist plays a positive role in the patient’s recovery process. This is something I will try to emulate the rest of my career and will allow me to touch the lives of every patient I encounter in the future. 

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