A Better Understanding of Palliative Care

We started out the day by listening to a lecture by Dr. Rubenstein at the University of Austral about the financing of the healthcare system in Argentina. After our lecture, we visited two community-based centers that serve as primary care centers in Argentina. While the government provides public health clinics for primary care, the people in the local community told us that they are understaffed, and a doctor is often not present and therefore does not provide the support it is intended for. It was surprising to see a different type of health center that is funded privately but operated publicly as anyone has access to its health facilities. These centers also have a community center attached to its health facilities where kids are provided with educational support and a resource that provides meals throughout the day.

Then, we visited the Good Samaritan hospice center in Pillar, which was an emotionally touching and eye-opening center. I was nervous originally and unaware of what to expect, but the visit started with an informational presentation discussing what and why the center does what it does. Hospice care was something that I knew existed but had unfortunately never truly paid much attention to until today. I learned a great deal about its benefits and learned so much about palliative care that I had not known before. It was interesting to hear that one of the issues that palliative care focuses on is how the patients affected by terminal illnesses feel as though they are just a number and that physicians are desensitized to their pain as they deal with so many similar cases. This was very interesting for me, as my mother who is a physician and a breast cancer survivor frequently talks about how her recent experience has changed her approach with her patients as now she has a significantly better understanding of the emotional challenges of dealing with an illness. Being present with my mom throughout her experience opened my eyes to many different struggles and it helped me understand how important palliative care that focuses on providing emotional support is, especially for those who do not have family support or feel alone. Furthermore, Dr. Najun shared an incredibly moving story that embodied what palliative care entails when he told us about a 24-year old who suffered a great deal as a result of his health issues and various other issues that were a result of his socioeconomic background. He was rather distrusting of most institutions as he had been poorly treated throughout his life; however, these feelings of resentment eventually passed after receiving the care he deserves at Good Samaritan. Although he passed, he was able to do so in a more peaceful and accepting state, reflecting the goals of palliative care. By sharing Ezekial’s experience, Dr. Najun helped me understand what palliative care truly entails as I had the preconceived notion that hospice care usually was a last resort.

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