Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number ten. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.
I worry a lot about getting jaded in the hospital.
Sometimes it looks like no one cares in there.
This trauma alert came in, a married couple who had been assaulted. The husband was hit by a two-by-four and the wife had a black eye — but the doctors and nurses were upset that the incident wasn’t more serious. The usual frantic pace of the trauma team was replaced by eye-rolling. One of the nurses yelled, “Boring.” Someone yawned really loud. Two doctors ripped off their gloves and stormed out. The couple was downgraded to another part of the hospital. I visited the couple, and they couldn’t speak English, and part of me was grateful for that.
There was an even worse situation, when a man’s heart had stopped and his chest was cut open and a doctor reached in through his ribcage to pump his heart back to life. The man didn’t make it. Someone said, “The floor’s ruined, what a lot of blood.” Two nurses high-fived over the dead body: “That was fricking awesome!” A doctor raised the roof. The body was wheeled out quickly.
All this sounds awful, and these occurrences are a rare thing, and I work with excellent people. And of course, medical abuse is never okay. I can’t ever make light of that. But I really do get why we get jaded. I was amidst professionals who had been doing this a long time, and they had created this safe, hovering, compensating distance in order to be effective. It’s why medical staff can’t work on their own family members — there’s too much at stake, and that desperation can fog up somebody’s thinking. Clinical work is clinical. It’s the only way you can reach inside a man’s chest and grab his organs in your fist.