By Jade Bowman, Precious Blood Volunteer
Over the course of these past three months in Kansas City, I’ve grown into a better me. Although that certainly sounds cliché, I can say for a fact that it’s true.
Some would be intimidated by the prospect of moving to another city to volunteer without any peers in their program. I knew, however, that this would give me an opportunity to flex my independence muscles and figure out who I am and what I like, really. I went on a lot of bus adventures in the beginning of my time here, relishing the fact that I could go enjoy what I liked and spend as much time as I wanted doing what I wanted. The first month or so got lonely at times, and without another person taking the bus with me I got lost more than once, but I definitely was proud of myself for toughing through it. Of course, I eventually made a group of friends I could spend my free time with, but those first few weeks helped me find my place.
Another source of intimidation was my volunteer site. I’ve never had a 5-day-a-week, 9-to-5 job. I really didn’t think that I was cut out for that concept, and perhaps I’m still not, but it’s because of my amazing coworkers that I enjoy my time rushing around our small office space. I was welcomed like a member of the family by my coworkers at the KC CARE Clinic. We’ve had a lot of changes over the past three months with employee turnovers and policy revisions, but the family dynamic of our site has remained the same. My coworkers have supported me and I really feel that I contribute something important to the workplace, and that keeps me excited to keep coming back day after day.
I’ve had some rough days at work, but the good days more than make up for those where I am tired, stressed or frustrated. Thus far, my most profound experiences at the clinic have been the interactions I have with patients. On one particular day, for example, I felt that stress and frustration and had it turned on its head with one interaction with a patient; I had the pleasure of working with a patient who was nonverbal and highly autistic, and he seemed genuinely happy that I was there with him. His caretaker expressed to me her surprise, saying that he is usually noticeably anxious at the doctor’s office. He was completely relaxed for me and even let me prick his finger for his blood sugar test with a smile on his face. These are the interactions that let you know you’re on the right path. I was not in the mood for personal interaction; I was tired and not feeling up to deal with a potentially difficult patient, but I ended up swallowing my words. I was smiling for the rest of the day.
Some of my other favorite patient interactions are from our regulars, those patients who come in routinely on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. After a few times at the clinic you develop a rapport with people and it is wonderful to see their faces light up when they see you. They ask about how I’m doing and remember my name, which definitely contributes to my feeing of belonging at the clinic. I know they would notice my absence, and that makes me feel valued.
I feel I’m a valuable part of positive change at KC Care. I could very well spend this post-graduate year at home, retaking classes or spending time traveling. Personally, I believe the time I will spend here is more important to both my personal and spiritual growth. After completing this program I plan on continuing my education and applying for Physician Assistant schools. I know the lessons and experiences that I have and will learn here will apply to my education, the rest of my professional career and my personal life. I have become more independent and self-assured, which will definitely aid in my discernment process for schools and in carrying myself confidently in interviews. I already have a basic knowledge of medicine from my undergraduate studies, but this firsthand experience is invaluable. I do not know what the next months of my service will bring, but I do know that these past few months (although filled with ups and downs) have done for me already what I wanted to gain from this year of service. I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far and I’m excited for the challenges and joys to come.
Jade Bowman serves as a Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
To learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers please go to our website www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org