By Patrick Gomez
Updated November 06, 2015 08:35 AM
Credit: James White

When it came time to create her first television show, Shonda Rhimes looked to her past for inspiration.

“I had been a candy-striper in high school,” says Rhimes, who is featured in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “I always found medicine very interesting but being a candy-striper was all about the people in the beds and how late the doctors were working.”

Her time as a hospital volunteer ultimately led to her hit ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy, which is currently in it’s twelfth season.

“It felt like there were a thousand stories in every room and there is something really great about that idea,” says Rhimes, 45, who is also the creator of Scandal and the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder. “And then surgery, just the idea that you could hold a human being’s heart in your hand and you are responsible for life or death.”

Rhimes – who is the author of the new book Year of Yes – says she came to look at doctors as almost “godlike.”

“For me, I felt like those were the warriors,” she says. “That was really intriguing for me.”

For more from Shonda Rhimes – including passages from

Year of Yes – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now