Each Shot of Satisfaction is related to one of the seven steps back from burnout in the process of REFLECT. My hope is that, by sharing with you how I apply these steps in my daily life, it will help you on your journey to a fulfilling life of caregiving.
Originally published August 10, 2011 – This Shot of Satisfaction relates to Step 6 -CIRCLE BACK to the beginning. If you’re not being effective, remember what you want and execute the first five steps of REFLECT again, with this same person or situation. Regroup when the encounter is over so you can do it all again. Remember your desire is to care. Look for a fresh opportunity to care again.
In the Emergency
In my ongoing quest to help us all become more satisfied care givers, I was inspired by a recent TED talk with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Dr. Taylor is a Neuroanatomist, who had a “stroke of insight” when she experienced bleeding in her brain. Take a look at her fascinating lecture here: Dr. Taylor Ted Talk
Dr. Taylor shows us how the right hemisphere of our brain is focused on the present moment – the right here and right now. Our right brain thinks in pictures. Information, in the form of energy, streams in simultaneously through all of our senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Once inside the right brain, this sensual information explodes into an enormous collage of what our present moment looks like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like and feels like.
Our experience of reality, if we go by our right brain, is that we are an energy being connected to the energy all around us. We have a sense of connection to one another through the viewfinder of our right hemispheres as one large human family. In the “right here, right now,” we are all brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. In this present moment we are perfect. We are whole. We are beautiful.
Dr. Taylor goes on to tell us that our left brain is an entirely different place, where we think linearly and methodically. Our left brain is concerned with the past and the future. Our left brain is designed to take that enormous collage of sensual information from our present moment and begin separating and categorizing it, organizing and re-organizing details upon details upon details. Our left brain then associates all of this information with everything we’ve ever learned in the past and projects it into our future.
Our left brain thinks in language. Our left brain is that ongoing chatter inside our heads that connects me and my internal world, to my external world. It’s that little voice that says to me, “Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home so you can eat them in the morning.” It is that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But most importantly, it is that little voice that tells me, “I am.”
As soon as our left brain says to me “I am,” I become separate (from you). I become a single solid individual detached from the energy flow around me. It is our right brain that is responsible for the experience of unity and our left brain that is responsible for our experience of individuality.
I’m always saying that humans are hard-wired to care and I am not making it up. Caring actually makes us feel good. All of us who work in the Emergency Department are here for the Lazarus moment – when someone comes to us nearly dead in the midst of having a heart attack or drowning in their own fluids in congestive heart failure or pulmonary edema. We thrive when we take care of patients who have been shot or stabbed. We love we are faced with and are able to defeat the Angel of Death. Why?
Have you ever noticed that when we step inside a “real” emergency, everyone knows his or her role and position on the team? We know where everything is, even equipment we have not seen in months. We act as a team, as one single organism. We become a hero working within a group of heroes. We experience flawless teamwork. We seamlessly anticipate each other’s needs and fulfill them. Our desire to care and make a difference is fully engaged and we all act in unison on that desire. We feel connected to something larger than us. We find meaning, significance and purpose in ordinary and simple tasks like starting the IV or pushing the medicine.
For me personally, when I step inside the emergency, I become aware of everything that is happening simultaneously. I can track six conversations at once. I can think through it all, assimilate it all, handle it all, knowing exactly what needs to happen next. It is as if I step through some doorway into a zone where I lose my ordinary self, and can see, hear and feel everything going on around me. I know you have experienced this for yourselves whenever you have stepped inside the emergency to save another’s life, no matter what position on the team you hold. This is where our care for others causes our entire brain to light up. This is where caring for others gives us full access to the totality of our own experience of humanity.
When we step inside the life or death emergency, we simultaneously have full command and access to the consciousness of our right brain (unity and sensuality) and our left brain (language and calculation). We are fully connected through the activation of our desire to care for another. We naturally move through the energies of full presence, connection, empathy and compassion. And if that does not feel good, if that is not miraculous, if that is not larger than ordinary life, if that is not heroic, if that does not contain intense pleasure, meaning, purpose and significance, well, I don’t know what does. This is why we love emergency medicine. This is why we became nurses, doctors, and medics. This is why we work in the hospital. This is why we crave this sort of satisfaction, and this is why the only way we can feel this good is to lose ourselves in the care for another.
In order for us to find this kind of satisfaction in all our patient encounters, especially those mundane moments, we have to consciously connect to our desire to care and make a difference for every patient. When we are dealing with the everyday challenges of patient care that push our reactive buttons, we need to exercise the power of our free will and consciously choose to give True Care. By injecting True Care into ALL of our patient encounters, we can transform even the most mundane into miraculous events.
In order for us to find this kind of satisfaction in all our patient encounters, especially those mundane moments, we have to consciously connect to our desire to care and make a difference for every patient. When we are dealing with the everyday challenges of patient care that push our reactive buttons, we need to exercise the power of our free will and consciously choose to give TRUEcare. By injecting TRUEcare into ALL of our patient encounters, we can transform even the most mundane into miraculous events.