I'm angry with myself

I volunteer in an emergency department. They’re finally starting to warm up to me and today was a mile stone when a nurse asked if I would wheel a patient outside to smoke.

Yeah, I know…

Anyway, I wheel her out and we engage in idle chit chat while she enjoys her cigarette. She then talks about her three children and mumbled something about getting caught with drugs this weekend.
It was sudden and I couldn’t hear if she said she was caught with drugs or her son was caught with them. She then says, "Sometimes I just want somebody to talk to."
I have experience in this department since my mother was an addict. I’ve always thought I could use that experience to help others. Well, here was my chance and I just said, “Oh” or something as equally retarded.
thwacks forehead Grrr
She then said she was done smoking and would like to go inside.
There’s dream land where you’re the super hero. And then there’s reality.

Don’t be (angry). Life’s too short.

I’ve done (or not done) a few things while volunteering that I felt bad about later. I see roughly the same group of people from week to week; they come in for steroid and other infusions every 4 weeks or 6 weeks (MS infusion clinic) and so because I like to talk to people, I get to know some of them. I always feel stupid when they remember my name and I can’t for the life of me remember theirs–OK, I’m wearing a name badge but they seem to remember even before seeing it–but of course I ought to glance at the schedule and know who’s coming in.

But then I’ll get chatting with someone, ask them where they work, etc., and I’ll say “You’re in sales, right?” “No, I don’t work.” And I realize I’m confusing them with someone else and now I feel like an idiot. So I’ll shrug it off by saying I have a memory like a sieve. Some people smile and laugh with me but I’ve had one or two who don’t, just kind of look sad. Ouch.

I’m terrible at remembering names of things. In my anatomy/kinesiology class at the massage school I’ve basically given up trying to remember the origins and insertions except in a general way. I know where almost every muscle in the body is now, and I know what they do, but that next level of retention of detail seems to be beyond my poor brain’s capabilities. I wonder how I’m going to fare in Gross Anatomy, if I make it that far

You likely had the emotional instinct that this wasn’t a door you wanted to open. For some reason you set a psychological boundary. Our instincts are often excellent guides about when those boundaries should be set. The challenge is not to avoid setting them but to understand consciously when we are doing so. For instance, the right answer here–as you develop your skills in this–might have been to find someone else for her to talk to. You’re not a caregiver in this environment and you were absolutely right to avoid taking on that role. (You could have actually gotten into some trouble for playing a counseling role for patients, since you are not playing that role on this team.) As an ED volunteer, the extra mile approach here might have been to check in with her care team–her nurse or her MD or the social services person in the ED–to mention that she had said this.
This is one of the greatest challenges of being a learner in medical environments. Your instincts guided you correctly here. You were not a caregiver nor a counselor and it was not your job to act as one. On the other hand this shows you how needed your compassion and attention will be when you are in a position to use them in a safe and supervised way.

If she really wanted to talk you wouldn’t have been able to stop her.
Anything you said would be taken as an invitation.
Sounds like she was just talking to pass the time.
I understand the idea of getting mad at yourself. I’m good at it.
Ask my wife.
Just don’t start kicking yourself.