Sunday, July 03, 2016

Employee Suicide

So last Tuesday was kind of good, but on Wednesday I felt terrible again, grimly musing that I have not felt really great for one moment since starting clinical pastoral education, or so it seemed while I was in that dark mood. The first thing that happened at work was learning that a hospital employee had committed suicide and had been found by one of his colleagues, who went to his place with the police after he didn’t show up for work the day prior. Samantha’s boss, Jacqueline, sent a note instructing us chaplains to provide spiritual care to his colleagues. I sent Samantha a note asking where they were to be found, but since she almost never answers an email (and didn’t answer this one), I figured it out myself and went to see the group, who were very grateful. They kept thanking me for coming.

I went to see M.I., who ended up in the hospital after a fall which gave her a colossal bruise from her forehead to her chin, and then was discovered to be so demented that she can’t be sent home. That day I was poring over her chart and saw that her sister-in-law and her sister, who both live in another country, have declined to be responsible for her. There is another sister, but no one will provide her phone number, so M.I. is languishing in the hospital and says over and over that she wants to go home, she needs her clothes, she wants to go to church. I felt broken-hearted for her, so sad that her own family can’t or won’t do anything to assist. Of course, maybe she’s a terrible person and they rightly are turning their backs. Maybe she was the oldest sister! (Like me.) Or maybe they truly are not in a position to be able to help.

I told Samantha about this in our weekly meeting that afternoon, and, as they do in CPE, she asked what in my history might trigger such sorrow. She did not take at face value that my sorrow was about my patient. These are some notes I made a couple of weeks ago: I see this person is having this feeling, but I’m not having this feeling. Or, I am having this feeling, but it’s not about what this other person is experiencing. It arises from my own stuff. (However, even though it’s my stuff, I still need to address conflicts and share my feelings with others.)

This leads nicely to the next thing Samantha and I discussed on Wednesday afternoon. I have to back up to say that on Monday, Mason was on call, but did not arrive to take the pager from the previous person, which is supposed to happen at 8:15 a.m. He is late pretty much every single day—unbeknownst to Samantha, since she herself is often late, or may start the day with a meeting at another campus—and on that day, he didn’t arrive until 9 a.m. To his credit, he mentioned this himself in class on Tuesday afternoon. On Monday morning, I took the pager temporarily so that the person finishing his on-call shift could go home.

Before Samantha and I met Wednesday afternoon, I overheard her on the phone evidently talking to Jacqueline, saying that Mason has failed to follow protocol a number of times and that she was going to send Jacqueline an email she had drafted, to find out if it was too harshly worded. Or would it be better just to address in her weekly meeting with Mason? I heard her say, “OK, good idea—I’ll do that.”

In my meeting with her, Samantha said that on Monday when I took the pager—good thing I wasn’t waiting for thanks—it could be seen as an instance of over-functioning, and that Mason and I in effect had conspired or colluded to make it so that she wasn’t affected by Mason’s lateness. I said that I had taken the pager because making sure someone responds to it seems as if it’s the top priority, but that I could see how it could be seen as over-functioning, since I was doing something that was not my responsibility. (By the way, I guarantee that if I had not taken the pager and someone had called it and gone ignored, I would have been scolded for wrongly ordered priorities.)

Then Samantha asked how I would feel about letting Mason know how his tardiness is affecting me, including his being late the first two days of the program. I said that I, ahem, sort of feel it could be the role of a supervisor to address such matters, and she said that indeed a supervisor can do this sort of thing, but so can a peer. I didn’t really think she was trying to get me to do her dirty work. From firsthand experience, I know she is perfectly capable of delivering a clearly worded criticism or correction. I think it was that she was trying to stimulate a confrontation between peers, which is part of how people learn in CPE, but I had no intention of doing such a thing and have not done it. Mainly, that’s because I dread conflict (which is precisely why you’re supposed to do this kind of processing, to learn to be better at it), but also because Mason is sort of always doing something wrong and I believe is perfectly aware of it, and I just didn’t want to pile on.

Next, we went over my stats for the prior week: the number of minutes I spent seeing patients and charting, and the number of patients I visited. Samantha was gentle about this, but said that technically, I should be seeing eight times as many patients! I had seen 15 in a week (which is indeed pretty pathetic—am I just a born slacker and there is no doing anything about that?) and should have seen 120—which is never, ever going to happen. Even Samantha allowed that no one ever actually does this, but in theory, we have 30 hours a week to see patients, and should see four an hour.
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