Lynn, MA—As if Michael Trautwein weren’t busy enough, the 29-year-old medical student who recently graduated from Tufts Medical School managed to fit in time as a volunteer for All Care hospice this past year and a half. Admittedly, medical students need 50 hours of community service in order to graduate, but most do not choose to spend time sitting with hospice patients,as Trautwein did. Elizabeth Potter, Manager of Development and Fundraising at All Care VNA and Hospice, has never forgotten his initial interview. “Michael said that although he was passionate about medicine and becoming a doctor, it was very important for him not to ‘lose his soul’ and see people as bodies rather than human beings.” Since then, he “has been an unusually positive influence and resource not just for his patients, but their families as well,” says Potter.
And this was not the first time Trautwein volunteered for a hospice. A graduate of Northeastern University with a BS in Biology, he spent two and a half years doing diabetes research in the Longwood medical area. During that time, he volunteered at a Newton hospice. Since he had enjoyed that experience, he asked his Tufts advisors for ideas closer to the school. “They led me to Dr. Hays, All Care’s medical director,” Michael recalls. “I hoped he would be amenable to me—a busy medical student who had a crazy schedule—being a hospice volunteer.”
The All Care staff was excited to have him join their volunteer program. Shawn Potter, All Care CEO, says Michael “is a wonderful young man, and I was highly impressed that he was finishing up medical school and going for his degree while, at the same time, also putting in the time to volunteer to help with patients in need.”
By early 2013, he began meeting with one patient in particular at least once every two weeks for 90 minutes. At first he mostly covered for the man’s wife, relieving her and keeping him company. Soon a true friendship evolved. “He really liked to play guitar,” says Trautwein. “He had played in a band when younger, and I play guitar too, so we began to play together. It was really fun. It dropped off when his disease progressed.”
When asked what the patient’s disease was, Trautwein reveals that he did not know. “As medical students, you’re always trying to learn the symptoms and treatment about the disease, and it was really nice to not know that and just focus on the person and enjoy him and his company.
After the guitar playing stopped, the pair still spent time together, talking, hanging out, and laughing at TV shows. “With time, he slept through most of my visits, but I was there to continue our friendship,” says Trautwein. “The thing about hospice, you don’t expect it to be anything but a short friendship, but you try to make the most of it.” When a patient dies, he explains, “There is nothing that sudden or unexpected.”
All Care’s Dr. Lewis S. Hays believes that someone pursuing the rigor of medical school and willing to put the time into hospice care – and finding time to make this commitment – is extraordinary. “So many physicians come out of medical school without a full understanding of the extraordinary benefit of hospice care and how important it is – and how critically important it is for those coming out of their medical training to understand,” says Hays. “So any medical student who is drawn to this is exceptional.”
“It was nice to hear through the team and volunteer coordinator what a positive impact I was making on my patient and his wife, and that their family appreciated my visits and the time I was spending,” says Trautwein.
If time permits, he may continue volunteering at All Care, but in the meantime he is creating a pamphlet for medical students about what to expect when volunteering in a hospice. “Palliative care and hospice has been a grazed over part of medicine,” he says. “We spend so much time talking about treatment, that palliation and end-of-life care are not as focused on. This is an opportunity to become more comfortable talking with people, particularly your future patients, about dying and end-of-life care.”
As soon as the pamphlet is completed, Trautwein is off on a new venture: Marriage and a weeklong honeymoon. Then he and his wife will begin their three-year residencies – he in internal medicine at Tufts, and she in family medicine in Lawrence.
No one who has met Michael expects anything less than a future fulfilled as a caring physician. And All Care has been lucky to have him as a volunteer. More than 75 volunteers help out All Care in a wide range of positions and locations. For information on volunteering with All Care, please contact Bailey Potter, volunteer coordinator at 781.244.1129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1911, All Care VNA is a Medicare/Medicaid-certified agency offering services of nurses, home health aides, specialists in geriatrics, oncology, diabetes, physical, occupational, and speech therapies as well as palliative care. All Care Hospice provides the highest quality medical and emotional care for those with life-limiting illnesses, as well as respite care, spiritual support, and bereavement counseling for families. All Care also offers All Care Resources, our private pay division for flexible in-home services. All Care employs nearly 600 people, serving over 50 cities/towns in the Greater Boston North, Merrimack Valley and North Shore communities. For more information, call 800.287.2454 or visit www.allcare.org.