Medical Aspirations

Junior Emily Kuester volunteers at Torrance Memorial Hospital to gain experience in the medical environment in hopes of becoming a neurologist.

Pursuing her dream of becoming a neurologist, junior Emily Kuester has been part of a 13-month-long volunteer program at Torrance Memorial Hospital since November 2021. 

“To continue going down the medical field path, I had to [familiarize] myself with the environment. This was a sneak peek into that. I saw the hospital from an outside view and [experienced] its reality,” Kuester said. 

Kuester has been interested in the medical field ever since she was a young girl, as noted by her mother, Jennifer Kuester. 

“I knew her interest started to grow once I saw how much she loved Grey’s Anatomy and Derek Shepherd,” Ms. Kuester said. 

At the hospital, Kuester was responsible for completing various tasks, such as delivering charts, discharging patients and collecting samples and specimens. 

“I really liked charting because it allowed me to go to a lot of different places around the hospital. I felt like an intern. It was also nice knowing that I was helping people, not just the patients, but also visitors coming in to see their families. It was rewarding to relieve some of [others’] stress of trying to figure out where to go,” Kuester said. 

According to Kuester, helping discharge patients gave her personal insight into their unique lives and emotions.

“I got to talk to a war veteran and his [experience] coming back. Another time, this guy who had just gotten head surgery was telling me about his wife cheating on him and was contemplating who he should cheat with. It was crazy,” Kuester said. 

Volunteering also allowed Kuester to collaborate and bond with the hospital staff, who she found to be “very helpful.”

“I rarely talked to any of the doctors, but I worked with the nurses a lot. I would [consult] with them on how to get injured patients in and out of wheelchairs and how to roll them out.  [The nurses] were always super nice,” Kuester said. 

Kuester claimed that while she initially experienced difficulties finding her way around the hospital, she was quickly able to adjust to the “busy” environment. 

“The [hospital setting] definitely isn’t calm, but once I knew my way around the hospital, I felt more confident because I could show visitors where to go. Confidence is such a big building block for this [career]. Once you know where to go, everything gets so much easier,” Kuester said. 

According to Kuester, committing to the volunteer program bolstered her confidence in her ability to handle a medical career in the future. 

“I got to know the hospital environment and the hard work it requires. I’ve never had a big time commitment like this or dealt with the [obligation] of having to go somewhere after school. It wasn’t too bad, but I wasn’t used to it and I would feel so tired when I came back home that I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s nice, though, to know that I can handle it,” Kuester said. 

Ms. Kuester also saw the benefits the program held for her.

“I thought it was good how much [Emily] persevered through volunteering because it was a lot of work for a long time. I can see her reaching her goal of becoming a doctor in the future,” Ms. Kuester said. 

Kuester also gained experience handling “difficult” patients and volunteers, who she came across frequently. 

“Some of the adult volunteers could be bossy and [frustrating] to work with. Also, some days, I would feel extremely exhausted and I still had to transport people who had complicated health issues or needs. Even if you’re tired, you don’t have a choice. You still have to wheel them out, ” Kuester said. 

Striving to eventually earn the title “Dr. Kuester,” she hopes to be accepted into a summer medical program at UC Berkeley to further add to her experience. 

“Being in the environment was eye-opening. Even just getting to know the hospital and talking to the patients and nurses felt really exciting. I loved getting this work experience,” Kuester said.