Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Day Where Time Simultaneously Stopped and Flew By

I had my first call to the children's hospital this morning.  It was very, very difficult.  Those of you with babies - hug them close tonight.  Life is precious.

When I left the children's hospital and headed back to Grady, I thought I was doing okay.  I sat in on an interdisciplinary team report on the HIV/AIDS floor, accompanied one of the residents as she went to pray with the food service employees and attended midweek worship.  I ate lunch in the lounge with the other chaplains.  I pulled out my notebook and started noting some of the key points of my children's hospital call.

As I got further into my notes, I started to feel really anxious.  I didn't understand the anxiety - the only thing I had planned for the rest of my day was an hour-long individual supervision with my educational supervisor.  By the time I would be finished with the meeting, it would be time to leave.  I didn't have the on call pager - I wasn't on call tonight.  Why was I anxious?  I think I was just more affected by the call than I initially thought.  Combine that with the fact that we interns were assigned our own floors today and I had the perfect recipe for heart palpitations the inability to remember how to breathe properly.

I felt better by the time my supervision rolled around.  I walked in expecting to go over the verbatim that I had been working on the other night.  I asked her if I was supposed to read it out loud and she said no, she had read it that morning.  She asked me about a really strange detail of the case and then kind of turned the paper over and looked at me.

"So tell me about your anxiety," she said.

Crap, I thought to myself.  It's going to be a long meeting.

For the next hour, we talked about my anxiety.  We talked about what it was like in college, how I changed my lifestyle to become a healthier overall person (body AND mind), how I am affected today by it and how it might affect my summer.

I didn't think it was okay to admit that my natural instincts to get anxious were going to cause me to approach my unit of CPE differently than other people might.  I didn't think it was okay to admit to my clinical supervisor, "I'm not sure that I can handle that floor right now."  I didn't think it was okay to say, "This is really hard for me - and I need to take a minute."  I thought that I needed to compare myself and my approach to CPE the way the other interns (and residents) do.  I thought that I needed to be perfect.

I was putting unrealistic expectations on myself.

I'm working on it.

My supervisor also reminded me that I've never done anything like this before - and that Grady isn't a normal hospital; it's not even a normal trauma center!  It's one of the largest hospitals in the country and things get absolutely crazy once in awhile.  "It's countercultural" she told me - I had never thought of it that way before.

At the end of our meeting, I told my supervisor that I felt bad saying that I was only doing CPE because it was a requirement for my ordination.  This program is making me a better pastor and I appreciate that.  She looked at me, smiled and said, "Sarah, I won't be offended if you hate CPE."

And for some reason, that made me feel so much better.


  1. Sounds like you have a great CPE supervisor! Its going to be a tough, hard, challenging, wonderful, growing, sad, happy, vital summer I think! :)

  2. Awww, hun I'm sorry you had such a hard time! Working with sick children is the hardest. I know I could never be a peds nurse because of that. I think you're handling it really well though, and I'm glad you have a great supervisor that cares about how you feel. You can do this!

  3. I truly believe the experiences you will encounter this summer will be used many times over by God and you in your ministry, especially when dealing with the illnesses and death of little ones...


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