The Up Side of Freshness

Although I just started the Summer Youth Employment Program at a local medical center, I’ve already learned a great deal about the patience and the attitude needed as a beginner in any work environment. Since I’m interning as a high school student, I don’t have the professional knowledge or skills to do anything a trained doctor or nurse can do. Thus, the lady who’s in charge of me, Theresa, assigned me the work everyman can do. I was to go to each exam room, check which brochures are missing, supply the missing ones, and re-organize all the brochures on the shelves to make them look neat, presentable, and accessible to the doctors. She told me that the doctors have to give out certain brochures by law, as the brochures contain important information on diseases, surgeries, health, and so forth.

At first, Theresa didn’t specify the mandatory brochures that had to be handed out. Theresa’s assistant, Cecilia, just told me to record down all the brochures in each room. Thus, I went off to Exam Room 1 in the unit 308, and wrote down the names, both English and Spanish, of all the brochures I saw on the shelf. Just in the first exam room, there were about twenty brochures, including “Gynecological Cancer”, “Breast Self-examination”, “The Elbow Owner’s Manual”, “Small Changes Make A Big Difference”, and “How to Check Your Testes”, just to name a few. Because I wasn’t told which are the mandatory ones I had to keep track of, I spent hours just writing down a myriad of brochure names. And trust me, there was no joy or excitement in writing the names of brochures till your hand started aching. Within the first few hours of work, I held no sense of hope for the program’s potential to arouse any interest in me.

After I went through nine rooms and came by Theresa’s office, I told her the problem with going through so many brochures. Since I thought that all the brochures I found in different rooms had to be in every room, I told her the sheer amount of brochures I recorded would exceed the capacity of any shelf. Also, because Cecilia told me each doctor has different preferences for the brochures they’d like to have in their rooms, I said it would be pointless to go around every room and write down the brochures that are there for a purpose. Hearing this, Theresa replied, “Oh, I need to tell you what the mandatory brochures are! Those are the ones the doctors have to have in each room no matter what.” At that instant, I understood the origin of the problem – she never told me which ones are mandatory. When I was first assigned this task, I was a bit baffled myself, so I never thought of asking her about the mandatory ones. In my head, I had a bit of a wail, realizing that I wasted so much time doing something I could’ve spent half the time on. As much as I disliked the work and the miscommunication, I still put on a happy face – I knew all the employees there would take note of my attitude. If I were whining on the first day about a simple miscommunication that cost me a couple hours of my life, I would seem like the most immature, unappreciative, and disrespectful intern to ever walk across the halls of such an esteemed medical center.

Keeping everything inside, I went through another twenty rooms, patiently recording all the missing mandatory brochures. As I went through each room, the frustration in me also resided, as I was recording more efficiently and doing a task that many may take a pass on, but is, after some thought, perfect for my role as a beginner. I asked myself, “Are you in the place to expect so much on your first day as an intern? Shouldn’t you feel grateful that you’re getting a great opportunity, despite your dearth of experience?” Because of a switch of mindset, I began appreciating the job and gaining new insights on the importance of it. First of all, how nice would it look if all the brochures were neatly displayed on the shelves? The doctors can easily pull out a brochure without worrying about where it is or an overflow of brochures, which would make pulling one out extremely difficult. Secondly, the patients depend on the brochures as one of the many ways they can learn about their bodies, how they’re treated, and the ways they can live a healthy life. I mean, how cool is that! It’s almost as if I’m working behind the scenes, using my two hands to make a difference, as little as it may be. No patient would necessarily appreciate me the way they would to a doctor since the patient-doctor relation contains more immediate and direct interactions, but a patient could still benefit from the nicely arranged brochures. The fact that there’s a chance a patient might notice how accessible and tidy the brochures look made me value this laborious, mundane type of work.

The next day, I spent hours carrying the stocks of brochures in the inventory to the space right outside the room I work in, putting them in either a box or a cart. Then, I spent approximately two hours making two documents on the computer. The first one is a detailed chart of the missing brochures in all twenty nine exam rooms. The second document indicates the amount of each brochure in the inventory. At this point, I began devoting a considerable amount of time and effort in this task. No longer was I concerned about how tedious it would be to go into every room and organize all the brochures. All I could think of was how meaningful this project was to me, and how much it would help patients if I accomplished it well. The optimism and energy carried on to the following day, when I started organizing the brochures in the rooms and putting in missing ones based on the chart I made. Since the other document shows sufficient supplies of all brochures, I didn’t have to worry about running out. I took the time to make sure the arrangement of brochures on the shelves in the rooms were more or less the same. Although the shelves were different for some of the rooms, I always started off with “Gynecological Cancer”, went through “Mammogram”, “Colorectal Cancer”, “Strategies to Quit Smoking”, “Should You Get a PSA Test?”, “Planning for Asthma”, “What You Should Know About Diabetes”, “Chlamydia”, “How to Check Your Testes”, before ending with “STD (Sexually-Transmitted Disease)”. After I was done with all the mandatory brochures, I put the individual brochures that each doctor likes to have in his or her room in a separate section of the shelf.

The whole project took about a week, but it only marked the beginning of the eight-week internship at the medical center. After I was done with the project, I walked past all the exam rooms, peering inside each room to see how clean and orderly the brochures were on the shelves and silently clapping for myself. I started the journey of this project a bit bumpily, but I ended up wholly embracing the process and the outcome of the project. This journey has taught me the importance of having patience and a positive attitude in the face of a seemingly difficult situation. Once I was able to break through the frustration with a trivial miscommunication, everything brightened up, including my own attitude. I was then able to see the bright side of the project: the fact that I was more or less contributing to the general knowledge of patients through my “exhibition” of brochures. Had I let the frustration get the better of me, I would’ve made this project an infinitely harder process, and stripped myself of the potential passion and happiness I’d feel for the work I was engaging in. Because I thought of myself as a beginner working around professionals, I was able to override that frustration and think positive. Any beginner only deserves to start off with the basics. Only by building off of the basics can one obtain the knowledge and skills of a professional, like a doctor or a nurse. Through working as a beginner, I grasped the meaning of patience and attitude, which I can now carry on in my pursuit of becoming a professional – a professional who will never stop learning on behalf of these two values!

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