While I was charting patient visits one afternoon a few weeks ago, a nurse came into the computer room and announced that there were “dollops of poop on the hall floor.”
“Poop dollops?” another nurse asked politely.
After I finished my charting, I saw a series of emails saying that the following week would be chart review, and since some of us would be out, our peers would need to do our work in addition to their own. One of the people who was going to be out asked if she could try to finish hers before going away, and the supervisors said that would be fine, but that others who would be away shouldn’t feel obligated to do the same.
However, now that I knew my colleagues would have an extra load because of my absence, and with just a couple of hours left to go in the day, I decided to try to complete mine, too, and was able to see all but two of my patients. One had not been in the hospital for 24 hours yet, so I didn’t need to see him, and the other reduced my score to 98 percent, which was all right.
To accomplish this, I had to briefly interrupt two visits patients were having with their physical therapists, and even a doctor visit, which I normally would never do. One of the PTs was a bit abrupt, which I could fully understand. Luckily, I saw her at the end of the day and apologized, and she was very nice about it; she also apologized. I explained that we have this crunch regarding metrics once a month and described how I rush from room to room on those days, thinking, “I hope you don’t have anything on your mind because I don’t have time to hear about it.” I told her it feels terrible; fortunately, it’s only once a month. Afterward I wondered if I’d sounded callous, but I think she and the other couple of PTs in the room understood.
I’m thinking more and more lately about chaplaincy as my explicit spiritual practice. It’s not in line with my meditation practice or in the spirit of my practice—it is my practice, moment by moment. I remember many times being on a meditation retreat, sitting with physical pain that was sometimes excruciating. Over time, I learned some techniques for being with pain (the most helpful comes from Somatic Experiencing), but mainly I learned how to relax, and eventually made the joyful discovery that my mind could be perfectly happy even when my body was exactly the reverse. These days being on retreat is easy. What’s sometimes very difficult is listening to people describe their medical experiences, which is, understandably, a favorite topic of those in the hospital.
The day after Thanksgiving (because I was on call on the holiday itself), I went to Michigan to see my parents and sister. We had our festive meal on Sunday: roasted chicken (perfectly tender but with a crispy skin), Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish (which does have a kick), two kinds of homemade biscuits, two kinds of gravy, stuffing, sparkling water, no dessert. It was very nice of my family to have Thanksgiving on the wrong day. I also had lunch with Ginny at Café Zola (salmon burger!) and with Amy at Seva. It was wonderful to see everyone.
I watched a lot of cable news, mostly MSNBC, some CNN, and even some Fox News. I was interested to see what the latter was saying about current events, and was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised.