'Caring for this community is our calling'
Recently, I called Virtual Radiology, our off-hours radiology provider, to discuss a report. I asked the radiologist if the patient’s appearance could be consistent with another specific diagnosis. She told me that her shift was over, and she didn't know the answer. I told her my shift was over, too, and my goal was to figure out who the next person to see the patient should be and when.
When I asked if she could route me to an on-shift radiologist, she took a deep breath. Then she spent the next 10 minutes on the phone with me, and at the end of the conversation, I told her it was the most stimulating and interesting discussion I had the entire shift. We had both overcome adversity, and the result was a collaboration that led to better patient care. She thanked me for calling and told me the conversation had been the best part of a long hard day. The same was true for me. The people we work with make our jobs even better than simply worth doing.
Responding to crises
Something I have noticed over the past two years is that even the most resilient people are having difficulty managing negativity. Patience is wearing thin. One crisis has turned into many crises. And, the time that passes in between crises is not sufficient to allow the distance and reflection needed — first, to solidify the lessons learned, and second, to recover psychologically from the trauma of the crisis. One's ability to respond to each successive crisis necessarily becomes less, even for those with well-developed coping strategies and attention to wellness.
My analogy for this is the cardiac compressions of CPR. Push hard, push fast, but you must allow for full recoil of the chest wall. If the chest isn't allowed to expand again in between compressions, the heart can't refill with blood, and the subsequent compressions won't circulate much blood at all.
So, when your life or work consists of crisis after crisis, and the people you rely on to help you do the best job have all been running their own marathons for two years or more, how do you have the best possible interaction? I can't control anyone's actions but my own. So what tools do I have to work with? How can I make a positive impact with just the qualities and skills I have in that moment?
I’ve learned that making choices based on quick assumptions can close off options that might otherwise remain open to me. We must try to remain optimistic that more can be done if we remember that we are all members of a larger team, and a team member might have helpful advice or a different perspective on the issue we are facing.
This past year, the CMH Emergency Department saw an increase in patients as people were more comfortable coming in for their emergent medical problems. As always, staff and providers worked hard to care for the sick and injured people in our community — and they did it with pandemic and other safety restrictions in place.
Caring for this community is our calling. Our dedication to our patients has helped us continue to be resilient despite the stress and strain placed on us by the long COVID-19 pandemic. We are in awe of our patients, whose patience, kindness and understanding have been an inspiration as we work to keep stress in perspective and rebound from another long year.
Collaboration and resilience go hand-in-hand. Help us care for you as we care for each other.