After the trillion details involved with signing up for Obamacare and becoming a Kaiser Permanente patient, my first visit over there (early in December) was extremely smooth. My new doctor seems like a smart young snippersnapper and was easy to communicate with. Afterward, I went to Publico for a burrito and French fries.
That evening, Tom and I had dinner at an Indian restaurant with David and Lisa, who were visiting from Seattle. It was excellent to be with them, as always.
I had been thinking about asking the senior chaplain at my paying job, Jonas, to have lunch with me. To gain board certification, you have to submit, among other things, two verbatims that each use a different assessment model. I thought it would be interesting to ask Jonas what assessment models he uses, and made a note to call him.
This note joined many other little pieces of paper on my desk, the most readily visible aspect of my to-do list, but just the tip of the iceberg. Progress on everything that didn’t get done over the past 15 months—well, now 19 months—has been astonishingly slow. One day, my eye fell on that particular note, and I saw that it was 9:20 a.m., when Jonas might still be sitting at his desk, so I decided to carpe diem and picked up the phone.
Jonas said, “Bugwalk? That’s weird—I was just writing you an email, and I was checking the calendar to see when you’d be in next.” I have very little interaction with Jonas, so that was weird. He was there when I did my unit of CPE last summer, and once or twice sat down with me and offered very helpful advice. On the phone last month, he said we could certainly have lunch and we set a date.
The reason he was writing me an email was that he’d been surprised, and not necessarily pleasantly so, to see that I’d written in a chart note that a patient who was dying and who had lost a child to suicide did not have any spiritual needs. This suggested to Jonas that I had not read the chart notes from the palliative care team before seeing the patient, which indeed I had not.
I have a filter that shows any chaplain notes pertaining to a patient, and I do look at those, and I read at least the most recent chaplain chart note. While we were on the phone, Jonas suggested that I make a second filter, for notes from the palliative care service.
I told Jonas that I welcome his feedback—I wish to learn all I can—and that I take responsibility for my actions and that I don’t wish to blame anyone else or badmouth anyone, but I have been under the sway of our boss’s efficient workflow. However, Jonas said that is just for brief, “drive-by” visits, which was useful information; I don’t think I’ve ever heard our boss say that.
Jonas added that he can tell from perusing my chart notes that I learned a lot during my year of CPE (the case at hand notwithstanding, I guess). I appreciated his saying that, and also how tactfully he shared his concern. After we hung up, a wave of beginner’s mind swept over me. What am I trying to do as a chaplain? Why? How? And from whom will I learn, given that I’m mostly wandering around the hospital without oversight? I need to figure out how I can be mentored. With that in mind, I sent Delia, the palliative care chaplain at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center, a text asking if we can have lunch, and I also made a date to meet with Naima, my overall chaplaincy mentor.
I have a few books on my shelf that will likely be helpful, and I am going to reflect on what people seek from their spiritual practice or religion. What do I seek from mine? How does my religion meet those needs? If I were in the hospital, what kind of help might I need from a chaplain to make best use of my religion? A reminder here that a chaplain is a person who provides spiritual care or guidance for someone who is away from her usual source of spiritual care because she is away at college, or in prison, or in the military, or in the hospital, or in a hospice, or even at her corporate job; there are chaplains who serve corporate employees. On the radio the other day, I heard about a spiritual care provider who travels with a circus.