Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Chewy Wad of Rhetoric

One of my CPE peers is now the full-time priest at County Hospital, so he and I had dinner one Friday night mid-January at a Chinese place and agreed to do this monthly. A week later, Karen and I had dinner at Udupi Palace (vegetarian Indian food) and the next day, my CPE peer Nellie and I went to the women's march in San Francisco, which had a relaxed, pleasant feel. On Sunday evening, my CPE cohort got together in Berkeley to eat and get caught up.

At work the following week, I had a one-on-one meeting with my boss which went better than expected and made me wish I hadn't spent so much time practicing responses to things she might say—none of which she did say—which I knew even at the time was a waste of time and energy.

I brought one patient visit for her scrutiny, and of course she told me everything I did wrong, but I reminded myself that she likes to teach, and that she is trying to educate me, and that I should learn as much from her as I can. Even though the words might have been very similar to our prior meeting, this time I didn't feel attacked.

I had recently told her all the dates I need to be away for school and for visiting my parents and for the Annual Christmas Blow-Out in Sacramento, and some tension arose. The speech I was rehearsing mentioned that, as a per diem, I don't have health insurance, I don't have dental or vision insurance, and I don't ever have such a thing as a paid day off. The only thing I have is some flexibility as to when I'm available for work or not, though I appreciate that a per diem who is quite unavailable will not be employed for long.

I do know, from long and bitter experience, that hurling a big wad of well-polished rhetoric at another person is never effective, but I even rehearsed saying, "I'm not so much asking for days off as letting you know when I am not available to work." However, none of that got said, fortunately. The subject barely arose. She said mildly that one particular month is a problem, and I said I wish I could change those dates, but both trips are for school; my hands are tied.

As before, she said plenty of things that were helpful—specific ideas about charting and conducting visits. And she gave me an actual compliment: "You initiate visits well."

There is a staff member not in our department who enthusiastically offers patients the chance to speak with a bona fide chaplain and turns over a list of names each weekend to the chaplain on call. I arrived at work Tuesday full of zeal to review charts for patients on all three of my units and conduct as many initial visits as possible—visits to people who have never seen a chaplain. However, there was such a long list of those weekend referrals that seeing them took up nearly the whole day.

My boss has lately been trying to get us to handle whatever comes in during our shift and not pass it on to the next chaplain, even if it's not at all urgent, and even if the request is specifically for some other chaplain. Therefore, I got to wondering why the person who worked Sunday didn't go see all those referrals and considered asking about that, but decided not to. I'm extremely lucky to have this position and I'm going to do whatever comes my way cheerfully. If someone else is doing something wrong, that will emerge sooner or later.

When I got this job, I agreed to work one 24-hour shift a week. Soon enough that became two shifts a week for the other per diem, Carolina, and three shifts per two weeks for me. At first I wondered why Carolina got more shifts than I did (other than that the boss seems to like her more than she does me), but then I decided that was a perfect amount of work, since these are all 24-hour shifts. It was more money, too, but it was kind of a wash, since if my income goes up, I will need to pay more for my Obamacare.

At our one-on-one meeting, my boss asked if I can identify another day of the week I could work, and next thing I knew, I also was signed up for two shifts a week, which is more than I want to work, though it also means that even if I pay full price for my health insurance, I am now—four months after finishing CPE and at least two years prior to getting board certification—fully self-supporting as a hospital chaplain. That is remarkable. I should say that I am temporarily fully self-supporting. I have a feeling that things change often in this line of work.

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