On Call

I have just begun my “first” night being on-call.

Actually, that’s not totally true. I’ve had one night so far but this is my first “real” on-call event. Because Weill-Cornell does not have a major emergency trauma center, our on nightly on-call schedule is a tad different than other hospitals. Rather than being on call for a night (and having to “sleep”/work at the hospital), we instead are on call for an entire week. I began tonight at 9pm and I will be on call through 9am tomorrow morning. I will also be covering the 8pm Friday to 9am Monday morning (while also working 9-5 on Sunday). The trick will be in actually falling asleep and not waking up every few moments believing that my beeper is “about to go off.” I think I’ll be fine though. My first night on-call, earlier in the month, I received a call at 3:30 in the morning (but I was able to pass it off to a catholic priest). But, with my luck, I just might have to go in every night this week. I hope not though.

My last few days at the hospital have been going well. I feel that I’ve plateaued in the amount of reflection I’m able to do about myself. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve discovered quite a bit of growing edges about myself. I think I’ve got a lot of work to do. But the energy I’ve been using to reflect on myself has been disipated. I’ve felt it move into other areas of my work, specifically my interactions with patients. I’m taking more risks, experimenting more, and seeing what works. During these last few weeks (less than 3 – can you believe it?), I think my main goal will be working on how I provide pastoral care to those where death is fast approaching. I tend to be ineffective at the “life-review” process that death can cause and I also tend to avoid asking the questions that really force a person to reflect on their death. What do they find meaningful? What are they hopeful for? What gives them meaning even in the face of death? They’re tough questions but good questions. And they are questions, when I’m confronted with death, that I tend to just avoid. I’ve got to work on that.

But besides that, I can feel CPE winding down. I have one final verbatim to do (on Friday) and then my final evaluation. It’ll be weird not getting up and going to the hospital. It will be weird not seeing my group every day, talking to them, having lunch with them, and learning with them. It will be weird not having to walk into rooms and talk to folks about their spiritual and emotional lives. But that doesn’t mean that my work as a chaplain is going to end. The more I’ve practiced it, the more I realize how often I will now being using it. And the opportunities for pastoral work are endless. I’m starting to understand while some supervisors in CPE tend to say that everyone, no matter their religion, profession, spirituality, or whatever, should take CPE. It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.