Meet Meaghan Kane, a second-year student at the Florida State University College of Medicine who participated in Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's 2021 Summer Institute for Medical Students program. Meaghan shares how her week shadowing clinicians and patients at Hazelden Betty Ford in Newberg, Oregon, deepened her understanding of how she can best help future patients and their families.
Like many others, I have family members who have been affected by substance use disorders. Unfortunately, it seems almost everyone is in a similar position today. Whether it's a family member, friend or coworker who is afflicted, the prevalence of substance use disorders is alarmingly high. No matter the field of medicine I pursue, I am sure to see patients who are affected by substance use disorders. Knowing how to identify potential signs, begin the conversation about substance use disorders, and provide options and resources for care and support will be invaluable skills for me in helping patients and their families.
My time at Hazelden Betty Ford gave me a deeper understanding of substance use disorder as a disease that affects the person as a whole. I feel more confident discussing the disease and providing information and resources to aid in recovery for both the patient and their family members. The experience also taught me the importance of establishing and building relationships with patients, to ask open-ended questions and to really be approachable and available for conversations that might be uncomfortable or difficult to initiate.
So much of what I experienced was new and inspiring to me. When I started the week, I was told that medical students love the group sessions—and I soon understood why. The patients and counselors were incredibly open and vulnerable, and the mutual respect they showed one another was truly moving. It's hard to fully describe the healing environment counselors and patients created together. Across all of the programs I experienced—women's residential and day treatment, and men's residential treatment—I was struck again and again by the camaraderie among patients. Not only were patients proud of their own accomplishments and progress, they were sincerely invested in the success of their peers. Everyone celebrated when a major milestone was achieved.
I was also grateful to learn more about resources available for family members. In listening to patients' stories, family was a common theme. Families are impacted by the disease in profound and complex ways, and family members are in need of care and support as well.
The program gave me the opportunity to see the disease from the perspective of patients. I will carry their stories and insights forward in the care I provide. The experience also opened my eyes to the fact that substance use disorders can impact anyone: from medical professionals to stay-at-home parents, no one is exempt. I now have the confidence to talk openly about the disease, which serves to lessen the stigma all around—not only for patients and families in my care, but also among my peers and colleagues in health care.