Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fearless Cleanliness Captain

This past Thursday I did joint visits with a peer, observing him as he interacted with patients and writing down what I thought he did well and any suggestions I had for improvement—and in CPE, you can never get away with saying you don’t have any of the latter—and then he did the same for me. This peer is a Catholic priest, and therefore has formidable resources in the area of prayer. I could see how much that was appreciated by a Catholic family.

We also had a class that day on group dynamics, and one on conflict mediation, which involved interactive exercises that made us laugh. We heard about active listening and various styles of dealing with conflict. I’d gotten to practice the latter earlier in the day, when I went to speak with Patricia, who led the session on the enneagram last week that so inflamed me. Anita, my supervisor, was present as well. We sat down in a dimly lit small office and Anita said she was there to be our mediator. I said, “I thought you were here to be my attorney.”

I’d written out what I wanted to say and thought it over for a week, and, using “I statements,” I told Patricia about what I’d experienced. Regarding the “I statements,” there is definitely some grey area. “I feel that you are a jerk” is certainly out of bounds. “I feel angry” is always within bounds. “I felt shamed, humiliated and intruded upon” is iffy—it expresses that you shamed, humiliated and intruded upon me. I.e., that you are a jerk. On the other hand, those are specific experiences and maybe there is no better way to say it. Anyway, that was among the things I said, and Patricia’s response could not have been more wonderful.

She was completely open and undefended, and responded straight from the heart: perfect. She expressed great sorrow at having had this impact on me. She did say she thought the mood between us on that day had been “playful,” and I can easily see why she thought that. I acknowledged that my words and affect had not matched, and that I had used humor to mask my feelings. As for her not hearing my “No,” she literally did not hear it. She said she would never, ever push past a “No” and that she did not hear me say that. I was relieved to learn that.

I confessed my lie and apologized to her and she generously said it was a necessary form of self-care in that moment. The whole conversation took no more than 20 minutes, and Anita looked delighted at all this clear, heartfelt communication and mutual taking of responsibility. Patricia and I parted with a hug, after she told me how much she respects me and that I can always count on her support.

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We tidied up the student office recently and were rewarded immediately with pizza and later with one of the spiritual care manager’s cheery emails, in which she said, “And thank you, Jodie, for serving as our fearless cleanliness captain!”

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I don’t know if you’ve ever given any thought to what might happen if you get a heart transplant and then the new heart stops and you are the subject of a Code Blue and compressions are performed on this new-to-you heart, but I had occasion to ponder this this week and learned that they use a portable ultrasound machine at the bedside to confirm that the heart hasn’t been damaged.
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