Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Yesterday was my very first day as an actual paid staff chaplain. It went pretty well. I spent the first couple of hours at the office where Rebecca, our administrative person is, doing the last of orientation. I thanked her for a couple of things she said when I was doing CPE that were helpful to me. One was when I announced to my supervisor, “I’ve thought of another good reason I can’t be a chaplain: I’m an introvert.”

Rebecca, working away at her desk nearby, said, “Every chaplain I know is an introvert.” Objection overruled!

Rebecca also mentioned one day how much exercise chaplains get walking around the hospital all the time—that it’s a healthier job than some.

Rebecca said she wanted to thank me in return for teaching her how to center herself—I had not realized I had done such a thing—and also for being an inspiration in regard to mindful eating. She said she periodically attends mindfulness training classes at work where they talk about mindful eating. She said it never really sank in until she saw me having lunch one day and thought, “Mindful eating: There’s someone doing it.” She said that ever since then, she has been paying much more attention when she eats.

I took the shuttle over to my own campus and spent the day fielding pages to the on-call pager and dispatching requests. I saw only three patients, including one who was going on comfort care, meaning that death was imminent.

The air was smokier than it has been all week, and even in our windowless chaplains’ office in the basement, I could smell it. After an hour of sitting at the computer mid-day, my chest hurt, my eyes were burning, and I had a headache. At the end of the day, I spent another hour in that room. It no longer smelled like smoke, but I still got a headache. I hope it’s not going to be a chronic problem, something to do with the ventilation. I gather that even if you can’t smell smoke, such as from the North Bay and Santa Cruz wildfires, there can be yucky stuff in the air, so maybe it was that.

I punched out at 5 p.m. and went on standby, but lingered in the office until near 7 p.m. to see if any pages would appear. Nursing shift change is at 3 p.m., and my colleagues say most requests for an immediate visit from a chaplain turn up by 5 or 6 p.m. The likelihood of being paged after that is less. I spent that time typing up notes, figuring out how to print, and devising a method for tracking my daily stats—the number of minutes we spent doing this, that and the other. Late in the day, I realized I had forgotten to check one source of chaplain referrals and was relieved to see that there was only one request, and it could be handled the next day.

I walked home and made dinner, marveling that I was still on the clock, yet in my own kitchen with my own cat. I didn’t get paged during the night.

Today I had some stuff to do in regard to health insurance: check my latest notices from Covered CA, pay my monthly premium, and follow up on getting both forms of insurance that I had earlier in the year to authorize the mammogram I had in January, which in itself has been an absorbing little project. I am so grateful to have health insurance, but applying for it and dealing with it have been ongoingly stressful—so many weird little details. Fortunately, the people at Covered CA are excellent at what they do and very helpful.

I got a notice from them several weeks ago saying there was a discrepancy between what I’d reported as my income and what the computer said. I called and we agreed that I would upload some documents pertaining to my CPE stipend. I did that—with difficulty—and two weeks later got the exact same notice again. I called back, and this time the person said there is nothing in their system that tells them that documents have been uploaded. You have to call and say, “I uploaded some documents!”

So I told her, “I uploaded some documents!” and she went and checked them right then and said everything was fine—except that now that I had no verifiable income, I qualified for Medi-Cal instead of Covered CA, which is fine with me. A couple of days later, I got a call from a Medi-Cal worker and told her about my new job. She somewhat sternly told me that if my income from my new job is what I predict it is, I do not qualify for Medi-Cal (which is also fine with me, since it wasn’t something I was seeking in the first place).

Today I yet again got that notice from Covered CA saying there is a discrepancy in regard to my income. The other day, I tried doing my annual renewal online, but could not convince the system that I was never in foster care. So I called today and explained the whole thing to another helpful person. Whoever hired the people who answer the phone at Covered CA truly did a fantastic job. This person updated my income per what I think it will be, said not to worry about the foster care thing, and said he had gone ahead and renewed my insurance; I just need to choose a plan.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because my insurance has such a massive deductible that I don’t dare use it unless I really, really need to. I decided today to go look at the other options. Maybe that low-premiums / high-deductible plan is for some young whippersnapper that I no longer am. There are certainly some other choices, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed because I’m not sure what the various plans cover, exactly. This caused me to remember the big stack of documents Kaiser has mailed me over the past several weeks that I have not looked at. Possibly if I were to peruse those documents, I could make a better choice about next year’s plan. Mainly, I just hope I don’t inadvertently do something that causes my insurance to vanish.

Though if that did happen, County Hospital serves people with no insurance at all, and their doctors are one and the same as the doctors at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center, so the care would actually be superb; you just might have to sit in a clinic waiting room for six hours before getting it. I used to do that when I was in my 20s and didn't have insurance. However, it would be disingenuous of me now to rely on that safety net meant for others. I can pay for health insurance, and I am happy to have the opportunity to participate in a pool of insured people.

Oh! I always thought “whippersnapper” just meant a young person. It actually means “A person regarded as insignificant and pretentious” or “An unimportant but offensively presumptuous person, especially a young one.” But why? Oh, because of this: 1665-75; probably blend of earlier whipster and snippersnapper, similar in sense. All right, that clears that up.
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