It almost seems surreal to watch as nurses, pharmacists and volunteers begin to tear down the triage area. For the last three days, I have watched as health professionals from all backgrounds worked together for a common goal — something that to me is the epitome of what we all as humans should strive for — love and support of people. This is not my first year at RAM, but it has definitely made my list of top five favorite moments of service.
For me, this trip didn’t start on Thursday morning at 5a.m. — instead it started the day Adam Krukas handed over his title of team leader (trust me, those were big shoes to fill)! I had visions in my head for where I wanted to expand our team roles and how I wanted to use our team to create an atmosphere that shows pharmacists are an undeniable asset to the health-care world. With a brain full of ideas and an executive board who was willing to work hard, we set out to make this year’s RAM better than any other year (a feat I believe we accomplished)!
Our emphasis as a team this year focused on two vital areas of health care: health education and smoking cessation. In each of these areas, I feel our team excelled and gave the best they could to arm the patients at RAM with tools that could improve their lives. While some efforts were received with open minds and lots of attention (the game), other efforts were harder to approach because they are never easy topics (smoking cessation). But I firmly believe that in each area, at least one patient gained some asset that will help them succeed.
One area that I feel we had the most success in was the A1c clinic. In this part of the triage, the patients had to wait for five minutes to receive their test results. It was during this time that the pharmacy students were able to devote their efforts to direct patient counseling. Several of us spent long periods of time educating patients on the importance of controlling their blood glucose, and we really got to know our patients.
There were a few patients who I talked with at length about their diabetes and their health care in general. Two patients in particular, my “mountain man” and my “veteran,” reinforced my desire to provide everyone with the best service that I can. I saw my “mountain man” all three days, and together we did everything we could to get his blood glucose to drop (a feat we never accomplished — although he still referred to me as his angel from heaven — a nickname I’m not sure I’m worthy of).
The “veteran” was a giant man (not in weight, but in stature) who had kind, old eyes and a heart of gold. I managed to get this patient a world-class treatment on his mouth and some of the best patient care possible. I followed him through the day and checked in multiple times; each time, he had a huge hug for me (and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my whole heart soar when he did).
There are two other aspects of RAM that I feel deserve attention, before I finish. The first being the friends you make with other health professionals, especially the nurses. It is amazing to watch as people come together and work so hard from 5 a.m. until 5 p.m. Some people spent the entire day refusing to eat so that more patients could be seen; others rotated through, caring for their teammates they had just met a few hours before starting.
There were three nurses in particular who I felt gave our pharmacy students the best education they possibly could (Vicki, Carol, and Pam). Each of the nurses was excited to impart their years of experience upon our students and made it fun in the process. (Just ask Derek — his nurse made him think she was crazy and danced for her patients)!
But even more amazing than the nurses was our team for RAM this year. Adam said it perfectly when he said that it is amazing that the VCU School of Pharmacy RAM Team is the only student-run organization (with a wonderful preceptor, of course — Dr. Sisson). And in my personal opinion, we did one heck of a job providing the best care we could this year. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to work with each of the students on my team. Every single one of them has touched my heart in a different way, and I will never be the same again.
How can you put into words the impact that service has upon your life? Each year I strive to give all that I have to people, I expect to leave giving everything I have got to improve each person’s life. And yet at the end of the trip, I find that I take more with me than I feel I could have ever given. Not only do I get the opportunity to leave with new friends, I take home stories that make me laugh or cry (or laugh so hard that I cry), things that gross me out and, above all, I take home a heart overflowing with a desire to love people that much harder and give them that much more of myself. With gifts like that, how could anyone not want to be a part of RAM?!
Look at my life, look at my choices. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who devotes one weekend to RAM made the right choice.