Monday, December 7th, 2015

Deconstructing Emotional Resilience

Noor Jandali

I think it is safe to say that most pre-med students are aware of the darkness that comes with disease. It’s something I think about as I continue with my academic classes and pre-med activities. I have begun to prepare myself for the point in my healthcare career when I will develop a deeper understanding of different illnesses. I will learn more about the science behind the silent killers that creep up on people, and surprise them when they least expect it. I also understand, however, that as a future physician, I, as well as fellow pre-med students, will have the honor and responsibility of taking care of these patients and addressing the issues within the healthcare system.

Before I began my volunteer program at the hospital, I was most curious to see how I would feel around a lot people facing various illnesses. I pondered if I would feel the vulnerability that the patients were experiencing each day in the hospital. I knew for most of my life that I wanted to become a doctor, however, I had natural doubts about entering medicine. I thought I would be okay, but I knew that to become a successful physician, I needed to be more than okay. I needed to be strong, confident and an excellent communicator. I wondered how I would react to the darkness of disease.

Part of what I do at the hospital involves delivering blood to different departments, which provides me the chance to meet patients who are in various stages of recovery. I still remember my first encounter with a patient who was undergoing dialysis treatment. Yes, at first, it was difficult. It’s not that I felt pity for the patient, but empathy for the difficult treatment they were going through. At first, I was emotionally timid. My initial reaction to dealing with these emotions was to not acknowledge them. I would tell myself to move on and do a good job, assuming that this was the emotional resilience that health professionals possess. However with more experience, I learned that a patient’s pain and discomfort is part of the process to recovery, but it does not define it, or their relationship with a physician. Diseases can be debilitating for a person, but patients are more than just their disease or illness; they are a person striving for recovery. For every patient I met, I also saw the physician, who looked at the patient with sincerity and focused their efforts on the goal of doing their best. Keeping this in perspective taught me what emotional resilience truly is, and how to cultivate this fundamental skill.

Here is how I broke it down. Rather than just swallowing the emotion down whole, I experienced it, appreciated it, and then prioritized it. Emotional resilience is not burying your feelings, it’s about honoring them, while understanding that one emotion alone does not define the fight to recovery. It was not that I forgot that the patients were in pain, but rather, that I focused on the thought that so many medical professionals were doing what they could to try to heal the patient. And it will be this focus on healing that I will use to help me persevere on this journey to becoming a health care professional and leader.

My advice for those who are looking to participate in medically-related experiences but may be intimidated by the profession’s emotional demand, is to engage yourself in an opportunity where you interact with patients. Experiencing the profession’s emotional demand illuminated these nuances for me. I know that I still have a ways ahead of me and much more to learn about medicine, but it’s never too early to get experience and develop emotional resilience, because this is what will help carry all of us through our experiences with future patients to come.

About Noor Jandali

Noor headshot close crop2Noor Jandali aspires to be a physician and also a researcher and leader in creating innovative solutions to address global health and health policy related issues. She cares deeply about leveling the playing field so people have access to quality healthcare. She hopes that her inquisitiveness about the science of disease and human condition will allow her to gain the scientific knowledge and foundation she needs to engage in cross-disciplinary thinking. All of this has ultimately been fostered by her globalized upbringing.

While the daughter of Syrian American parents, Noor grew up in Doha, Qatar. Now she is pursuing the Health Sciences program at Northeastern University in the heart of Boston. Noor enjoys the adventures of exploring such a colorful city with her friends, as well as witnessing the four seasons in action.

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