Sunday, February 26, 2017

Enchilada Miracle Cure

Last weekend Tom and I went to see La La Land. I was expecting it to totally blow me away, but it didn’t, I think mainly because of the cinematography, which seemed murky. Also, it seemed kind of sad: the romance didn’t work out. But it was fun to watch Emma Stone. She is darling.

On Tuesday, we had our end-of-unit party. We ate pizza and played Two Truths and a Lie and the smart phone game Heads Up! We each wrote on one side of a card what we are grateful for about our departing colleague and on the other side a good wish for her, and then all the cards were strung together into something like a Tibetan prayer flag.

As mentioned, I was reading a number of articles preparatory to taking a test, part of the whole process of applying for a palliative care internship. One of my peers said she had found the test very difficult; she wasn’t even sure she had passed it. I was surprised, since it is a multiple-choice test. Later I asked her if the test had required knowing the names of the articles and their authors. She said it indeed had, and added something like, “Great—now you’re probably going to pass it after I failed it.”

It seemed unfair not to share this knowledge with two others who plan to take the test, so I told them when we were in a car together later that afternoon. But my conscience increasingly nagged at me: if I passed the test due to what my colleague shared with me, and she failed it, that would be extremely unfair.

I decided that I needed a clean conscience more than I needed a good score on the test, and resolved to proceed as if my colleague hadn’t given me those details; I also resolved never again to solicit such information. But what about those other two people?! What if I virtuously didn’t use what I learned, and they did, and they both passed the test and I failed it?

I sent a note to the first colleague apologizing for having asked her and letting her know I was going to prepare as I’d planned to before our conversation, and I sent a note to the other two saying I wasn’t going to use the information and that I didn’t want an unfair advantage over anyone. One of them wrote back and said he commended my ethics, but he sees being able to pick up knowledge on the fly and make good use of it as an asset, not a liability, which I took to mean he would certainly be using what I’d told him. As it turns out, the test seemed very easy. Evidently, what I did to prepare was perfect.

I also am going to have a short phone interview Monday afternoon regarding moving to the children’s hospital, though I’m pretty sure I don’t actually want to leave my current campus and peers, nor the staff members I have built relationships with. Also, the other campus has way fewer patients and, by all accounts, life there is rather cushy in some respects (though certainly not when it comes to the loss of young patients). This is my only opportunity to do a year of clinical pastoral education at this prestigious institution, and I don’t want to spend half the day staring into space.

Apparently, everyone at my campus feels the same way, so I heard that our supervisors are considering an arrangement where no one would move over there entirely, but just spend some time there each week. If I don’t get one of the palliative care slots, I would be very interested in that.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we presented our final self-evaluations for the unit. Our supervisors treated us to Mediterranean food. Several of us emailed our self-evaluations to the whole group, and thus I saw beforehand what one of my peers had written about me, and was bothered by it. The morning of presentation day, I asked Tony if he had some time, and we went to a classroom with a beautiful view of the ocean and Marin County and talked it over.

I couldn’t decide between rebutting what she said, which actually seemed inaccurate, and just saying “Thank you.” Tony read the objectionable paragraph to me, which helped me see that it was actually mostly positive, and that the parts that had wounded me were a minority of the whole thing. They were also accurate, not in regard to the verbatim discussion my peer cited, but overall. And we are explicitly instructed to offer critique to each other, so here it was. Tony had also found his critique from this same peer difficult, so discussing this and sharing our feelings with each other ended up being tremendously helpful.

When my peer read her feedback for me aloud that afternoon, I said, “Thank you.” At the end of the afternoon, we recruited someone to take a picture of the five of us plus our supervisors. I hardly recognize myself in this picture. I don’t know what has changed, but something has. Probably CPE has aged me about 20 years. Also, I think I need new glasses, preferably with progressive lenses. About 50 times a day, I have to move my glasses so I can make a note on my patient list.

The famous cancer patient I mentioned is back in the hospital and appears gravely ill. On Friday afternoon, I was on my way to see her and was rather unnerved when I glanced into another room in the ICU and saw someone I know very well, also someone who neatly brings both Carlos and F. strongly to mind. She is a guest of the soup kitchen where I met F., and she was also a friend of Carlos’s. In fact, she was one of the last people to see him alive. Several hours before he died, she arrived in the palliative care unit at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with a big bag of Mexican food, which she hoped might be evocative or comforting for Carlos. Actually, I think she expected it to bring him back from death’s door, but it didn’t do that.
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