Starting with the most important clinical pastoral education news: my ID badge photograph looks fantastic. It has been a week of receiving an enormous amount of information and orientation. There are two others in my peer group, both men attending seminary in Berkeley. I found out that I can hang my black jacket in my closet at home and leave it there. I brought it along with me the first day just in case, but Samantha, our supervisor, said the way we were dressed was fine, explaining that you want to be attired so that if you find yourself at the bedside of someone who is dying, you’ll feel properly and respectfully clothed, but you don’t want to make every patient whose room you go in terrified that he or she must be about to expire.
We did get our badges on Monday, but it turned out that my badge did not open the bike cage, which I mentioned to the administrative assistant on Tuesday morning. She had been very kind and welcoming up to that point, including in phone calls before the program started, but she looked at me with an irritated expression and said, “What are you asking me to do?” I was rather taken aback, but it was the very beginning of the day, a time when she probably has a lot of things to do.
During this unbelievably crammed week, I found myself being very appreciative for small moments of pleasure. Lying around reading for six hours is out of reach right now, but I can consciously enjoy seeing a beautiful painting on the wall at the hospital or feeling a fresh breeze. I hope that being present as much as possible, which focuses energy inward rather than outward, will help prevent fatigue and overwhelm. We shall see. I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the surroundings at my former job. In my new office, the bathroom is not very nice, and there is no such thing as an unstained chair.
The sanitizing hand gel barrier was crossed on Tuesday! Someone was briskly giving us a tour, and before I had time to think about it, I had rubbed gel on my hands to discover that it dried almost immediately and felt fine, but smelled bad. Subsequently I have noticed that sometimes it completely disappears and other times it leaves sticky wisps, but there are sinks everywhere and it’s fine to use them for sanitizing instead of using gel, or for washing gel off.
In the course of the week, we toured all four campuses. At one, we visited the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). I saw a very tiny baby in its incubator so covered with various monitors that I couldn’t see its face, though I could see it had a little hat on its head, which was not much larger than a tennis ball. It brought tears to my eyes to see such a defenseless little human. We learned that after such babies die, that is the first time, and probably the last, that the parents see what their child actually looks like. We were told that if the parents want to take photos of a deceased child, we should suggest that they use the black and white setting on their phone or camera, because the child will look less dead (though we should not offer this explanation). However, most babies in the NICU go home in good health when they reach what would have been their normal due date; most babies are there because they are premature.
On Wednesday, I felt really terrible due to lack of sleep, and, to make a long story short, had a difficult exchange with Samantha, and was so near tears that when Samantha’s boss asked me a question in a presentation, I said that I was having a hard morning and needed to be quiet for the time being. After the meeting, my very nice classmate Andrew asked if I wanted to talk, and I did burst into tears then, and afterward felt better. He’s a really lovely person, very calm and down to earth. Our other classmate, Mason, is a good person, too. The three of us fell into an easy and cordial relationship right away.
(To be concluded in next post.)