Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Day

Wow. Even with basically no sleep and a probable brain tumor, this was like night and day compared to my first day of clinical pastoral education this past summer. It makes a big difference to be with people who are really, really nice. I’m sure they can be jerks (just like me) and are perfectly capable of being firm when necessary, but the whole vibe is kind and gentle and supportive and warm.

Sam said there is one supervisor he’s not crazy about—she keeps kind of yanking his chain—so I knew she would end up being my supervisor, but it turned out she isn’t. My supervisor is a very nice woman who has a small child. She told me just to go with the schedule for now and they’ll try to get me caught up next week.

There are 14 people in the whole group, six of whom are Buddhist, and another couple “Budd-ish.” At least one person reported having no religious affiliation at all. Everyone was extremely friendly. One young man turned to me and asked, solicitously, “How is for you to be here today?”

There was an abundance of breaks. We heard 45 minutes about this, then had a 15-minute break, then heard 45 minutes about that, and had another break. Mid-day, we were treated to quite a yummy catered lunch while we met with members of the Professional Advisory Group. One session was on the health, dental and vision coverage we have all been signed up for, which sounds like excellent coverage. We also did a session on charting. They use the exact same system that we used at VFMC, but in a simpler manner; they mostly just have us make selections from lists and actually discourage lengthy narrative. They pointed out that the patient gets to read whatever we write, so simpler might be better.

Besides finding out who my supervisor is, I found out which campus I’ll be at and which units I’m assigned to. One is orthopedic surgery, which I also had at VFMC, but someone pointed out this might be different. There will be some people who have joint replacements followed by smooth recoveries, but others who have had the same surgery fail six times in a row and have come to TWMC as a last resort. One of my colleagues was assigned to pediatric oncology. A chaplain who works there said not to worry that our assignments will have an adverse effect on getting jobs later. He said people do not care what particular unit you worked in and that we will get jobs because employers will know we went through a very rigorous CPE program.


I’m in a small group of five people: the woman who took my place when I dropped out (Budd-ish), a woman who is Christian and into yoga, a fellow from Burma who is a Catholic priest, and another man who is, like me, a Theravadan Buddhist.

One thing I learned from this summer was not to take tons of notes, because they just have to be typed up later, which takes time, and may be rarely if ever consulted. I took very few notes today.

At the end of the day, we all went out to a sunny spot in a nearby park and put on a temporary altar—a colorful blanket on the ground—an object we’d brought along to symbolize our feelings about the transition now underway. We each described our object, and while this kind of thing might not be naturally something I’d think of doing, I could really appreciate each person’s sincerity and openness. These are lovely people. We also had been asked to bring along a poem or prayer rolled up like a scroll and tied with a ribbon or piece of yarn. We put all of these in a basket and then each took one. I had to tie mine with string, but it was really a perfect poem, by Molly Fumia, and the person who ended up with it, who is one of our supervisors, was delighted by it.
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