A home visit to a hospice patient changed everything for Chelsea Behnke. It wasn’t what she expected. The NDSU third-year pharmacy student from Burnsville, Minnesota, had arranged for a speaker from Hospice of the Red River Valley at an event for the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy and American Pharmacist Association-Academy of Students of Pharmacy. One of the people attending was a member of the editorial advisory board for Student Pharmacist magazine, who suggested Behnke write about her volunteer experiences.
In winter 2014, Behnke made a visit to a hospice patient to deliver his medication. While she expected the encounter to be somber, it was not. What transpired during the visit led Behnke to become a hospice volunteer. When serving another hospice patient, she would spend time reading to the patient whose eyesight was failing. After visiting over a period of months, Behnke observed physical changes that she reported to hospice staff—an observation that led the medical team to update medication, making a positive difference for the patient.
“Every encounter with a hospice patient, including volunteer visits, is crucial to create an accurate view of the overall patient,” said Behnke. “I am pleased that my background as a student pharmacist empowered me to recognize changes in the patient’s symptoms.”
“Volunteering has been an integral part of my life,” said Behnke. “I quickly realized that pharmacy students have busy schedules, but we cannot forget about the bigger picture. We can all afford to give one hour a week to those who are in need our community. I continually am amazed by the impact volunteering has on both myself and the recipient.”
Pharmacy students bring unique skills to the settings in which they volunteer. Behnke notes that although students might not have always funds to donate to organizations, they can donate something equally as valuable—their time. She sums up her spirit of volunteerism succinctly. “If I can create a smile on a face and heart each day, I have succeeded. This is why I volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley.”
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