An Update from the Floor

I would like to interrupt our regular scheduled blog post for a quick update on my life.

The year is 2020. COVID-19 as you all know has been wrecking havoc on the world now in the public eye for just over seven months but possibly as long as a year. I began to feel the social effects of COVID in early March when the restaurant and bar where I was working slowly started loosing business and then ultimately shut down. By March 14th I was jobless. I had just moved into a new apartment with my younger sister Emma who I had planned to live with for a year while she was in beauty school. She also lost her job at a local spa. All of a sudden I was supporting the both of us out of my savings account while fighting for unemployment. It took me two months, until May 5th, too finalize and begin receiving unemployment assistance. I, like always, was pretty optimistic about the situation. A friend of mine and I had both agreed that by March of 2020 we would both leave the restaurant we were working at in favor of moving on the careers that we desired more. We wanted to leave the easy for something of more substance. Inadvertently and by way of COVID, we both did.

The day I knew I wasn’t going to have a job for a while I packed up and left for the desert with my dear friend Parry and her girl friend Jenna. Accompanied by Jenna’s dog Odeza we toured the south east of Utah for just over a week. Biking and hiking to our hearts content. In March the desert south west of the United States is perhaps at its most beautiful. Lite and infrequent spring rains change the smell of the sand. The days which are marching steadily towards the summer solstice are growing longer and longer providing warmth enough to take our coats off by 11 in the morning. The nights still have the bitter chill left over from the winter nights and necessitate puffy coats and down sleeping bags. And then the country shut down.

I came home. And I like millions of others across the planet sat in my house for the better part of the next two months. However, my time was far from unproductive. From my first week back at home I knew that if I was ever gonna get my foot in the door in health care now was my time. I was seeing the need everywhere COVID was overloading the system and everywhere people needed help. Two years previously I had earned my EMT-B with the National Outdoor Leadership School with the intention of volunteering with Search and Rescue here in Boulder, CO. While that dream fell apart I knew that health care was still a viable next step for me to take on my personal career path.

With motivation and passion I spammed out 25+ copies of my resume and accompanying cover letters. The first one I sent out was to Boulder Community Health for a position working as a nurses aide in the oncology department known as 1North. By the end of March I was interviewing with them and by the beginning of April I had been asked to come into the hospital to meet the manager of a different department where I was thought to be a better fit. I was offered a position as a night time PCA, or patient care associate and I began training. Having now worked as a PCA for the last six months think I have to say that those who are career PCAs are the unsung hero’s of health care. Nurses aides work the same 12 hour shift as nurses and other professionals but they are on deck house keepers and medical assistants. Cleaning and emptying bed pans, cleaning patients who are unable to care for themselves, monitoring patient vitals, helping patients meet health and ambulation goals, working on respiratory therapies, helping to restrain, empower, and inspire their patients are what nurses aides do more than anything else. My opinion of nurses aides is the same opinion I hold of bussers and barbacks at restaurants; the work would simply not be possible with out them and its gross, hard work that no one else typically wants to do or feels they graduate out from after a certain amount of time in the industry or field. By no means am I trying to say I think of myself as a hero. I don’t. I worked the job for six months. But the women and man that I worked along side impressed me every single shift. I could go on about nurses and house keeping as well but perhaps this is not the place for me to praise all the people who have impressed me.

So I began working as an aide. Adjusting to clinical work was surprisingly easy for me as the primary function of my work was the same. Its person centric. Instead of making drinks I was checking blood pressures and wiping asses. But maintaining dignity and inspiring confidence and hope became the primary focus. Like bartending I still spent most of my time listening to stories and injecting personal anecdotes where needed or requested. It was mid June by the time I began working shifts solo finally feeling like I had stepped into the roll fully but knowing full well I had plenty to learn. And learn I did. Nurses are bottomless resources of knowledge and endless taps of stories. With out the ability to administer any real aid in this clinical context I found myself watching, asking questions, running and grabbing supplies, and transporting patients more than anything else. I tried my best to take full advantage of every shift to ensure that I knew what a career in health care might actually feel like for me. I tried my best to never say no to an opportunity and more often than not found myself doing the things that no one else wanted to do; cleaning and placing patients who had passed away in body bags, dealing with catheters, confronting aggressive individuals, engaging with confused patients, and listening to those who had no one else to talk too.

I have loved every second and every opportunity that I have had working on BCH’s 2West Progressive Care Unit: Cardiology and Telemetry. The men and women I have worked with are as inspiring as they are brilliant. Although I will say I have never been a part of an industry with such insidious gossip and complaining. From whats written above I hope that it’s obvious that I’m moving on from 2West. Next week I start a new position working as a clinical medical assistant in a out patient wound care clinic affiliated with BCH and I’m thrilled to start. I’m thrilled to gain even a little more experience in health care because I’m fairly certain that this is the field and career path I want to follow in one way or another for the rest of my life. I’m an ambitious guy and often times bite off way more than I can chew. However, I tell myself that if I stay in health care I want to; I need to go to medical school and work as a doctor. As of now there are no plans to even apply to medical school in fact I’m probably closer to being a teacher than I am a doctor. But the idea is in the back of my mind and there it festers- grows, feed by every experience inspired by every question, every patient, every experience I have all adding to my desire to know as much as possible and to be able to make real consequential designs in the pursuit of helping those who need it most.

More than anything else in the world, I love people. I get my fire from conversation and I’m inspired by interaction. Medicine is inherently a person centric field and there is a simple joy in working in medicine that comes from knowing that every action you take is in the service of someone else. This more than anything else fuels my desire to pursue an MD. But my life might not be that conducive to that most illusive goal. I’m dating someone now. She lives in Breckenridge, CO away from academia and a life that makes medical school less inconvenient that it already will be. But I guess the old adage is true, where there is a will there is a way. I will find away.

So 2West, thank you. Thanks for taking a chance on a 29 year old bartender with no clinical experience and giving him the inspiration to purse something that he never considered. Thank you for teaching me and thank you more than anything else for showing me that medicine more than anything else is about people.

Over two years ago I got off a motorcycle in a suburb of Perth, Australia having just ridden 4,200 miles down backroads and coastline. It’s 2020, the corona virus pandemic is in full swing; and I’m working in the local hospital trying to keep me head afloat after getting financially demolished.There is a puppy that follows me around now and my sister and I are living together for a year. And I want to be a doctor. The number of changes, adventures, people, and beautiful moments have been uncountable.

Published by kjameshansen

Living life however it looks. I've got one eye and more ideas than I know what to do with. I'm currently living in Boulder, Colorado between adventures, but still managing to have more than the average bear.

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