Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rich and Educational

Last Sunday evening I went to the Thomas House potluck. I brought a little stack of Puffs with Lotion with me because I assumed that remembering F. would make me cry on the way in and out, but there weren’t any tears at all. It was great to see my soup kitchen friends. My walking friend gave a few of us rides home afterward. A year or so ago, I was in his car with a couple of people who really made me laugh, and last weekend, the same people were in the car and again made me crack up. It was the best laugh I’d had in weeks.

Last week at work we had didactics on assessing palliative care patients, treating Jehovah’s Witnesses (whose religion prohibits them from receiving whole blood transfusions), and working with patients with clinical depression. We also had a second session on transference, the psychological kind. Chaplains are frequently on the receiving end of this, and of course may fall into countertransference ourselves. These are exactly the same: mentally superimposing someone else on top of the actual person we are with and reacting accordingly, but when the care receiver / patient / client does this, it’s called transference and when the caregiver / chaplain / therapist does it, it’s called countertransference.

Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, and would also have been F.’s and my second anniversary. I was tempted to text him after work, but made it to the end of the evening without doing that.

I saw a patient this week whose wife left him in quite a cruel way after he became ill. He cried several times during our talk, and said he was thinking of reconnecting with his faith. I was impressed that in the midst of such a staggering amount of loss, he was able to come up with some sort of constructive plan for continuing with his life. The next day, he was sitting up in a chair and said he would be going home that afternoon. He was smiling, and I saw that someone had brought him colorful balloons.

A Code Blue occurred on my own unit Friday afternoon while I happened to be there. The patient was a man with Down Syndrome, who was soon stabilized. After a while, every member of the care team left the room and the patient was alone, so I went in, and the patient stuck his hand out to take mine. I sat next to him holding his hand for half an hour. He said two or three times, “I don’t want to die.”

This week we had our final session of presenting verbatims and last interpersonal relations group. The unit officially ends next week, when we will share our end-of-unit self-evaluations (not to be confused with our mid-unit self-evaluations) and have a party. I have arranged to take the test for the palliative care rotation next Wednesday. My statement of motivation is almost done.

There is a lot happening right now, including that one of my peers has developed health problems and has to leave the program. She works at the children’s hospital, so one person from my campus will move over there to take her place, and we’re going to get a brand-new intern who will do the second half of the year with us. So now besides the possibility of doing the palliative care training, there is the possibility of moving to the other campus for the rest of the year to work in the birth center and infant care nursery. I sent an email to see if it’s possible to apply for both or if they would prefer that we make up our minds up front and proceed down one path or the other.

In the past month, three interns who are doing an extended (part-time) unit of clinical pastoral education through June have joined us, and recently were able to start taking on-call shifts (so we like them very much, though we would, anyway; they’re all great people). It is our habit to say to each other before an on-call shift, “May your on-call be just what you need.” A co-worker once overheard me receiving this wish from our peer who is a rabbi and asked, “Educational, right?”

“No, no!” I said, before God could hear the rabbi’s prayer. “Restful.”

As it happens, that was a restful night, so the rabbi now has a reputation for magically effective prayers, and so we understood him to be undertaking a mild act of hazing when he said to one of the new students, “May your on-call be rich and educational.” Oh, no! Our colleague ended up getting two hours of sleep, partly due to getting a call at 3:30 a.m. from a patient who had had a nightmare—whose partner was right in her room!

So this is now a joke among us. One student who was pretending to be displeased with another said, “May your afternoon be rich and educational.”

More than one of us is a believer in the healing properties of oregano, but whereas I use it the way a normal, well-adjusted adult does—by applying the oil to my throat when illness threatens—one of our younger students eats huge quantities of the dried herb, and another drinks oregano tea. I think she may have influenced someone who is susceptible to peer pressure, because when we were recently together as a whole group, a foul miasma of oregano hung over the proceedings (oreganic miasma?).
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