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 July 27th, 2011 – This Shot of Satisfaction relates to Step 1 -REMEMBER what you came here for. Reconnect with your desire to care. Remember what you want from your work: the feeling good that comes from truly caring for others.
When you engage your desire, it gives you great power. Today and every day, act on your desire to care. This is how we make all the difference in the world.
No ordinary human
I know your secret, you are finally exposed, outed! You are no ordinary human.
It’s incredibly busy in the Emergency Department these days, and the dawg days of summer have yet to arrive. Our work place is already overrun with people who have succumbed to chaos, calamity or tragedy. Our patients and their families are in pain, distressed, demanding, angry and frightened. They feel entitled to immediate attention because their situation is the worst. “What’s taking so long? This is ridiculous! You call this a hospital? You call yourself a nurse?”
People are frustrated with us from the moment they walk in the door. Some scream at us, some throw up on us and others actually spit on us. When they don’t get what they want right away, they demand to talk to our supervisor. Others take notes and ask us to spell our name for them so they can contact administration. No matter how much we do, it never seems to be enough. Why?
Because our desire to care just isn’t enough.
When it’s busy and chaotic, it’s difficult to feel good about our work, especially when no one is satisfied with our effort to care. Many of us are asking ourselves, “Why are we here? Why do we choose to do this for a living? Why did I become a medic, a nurse, a physician’s assistant, a nurse practitioner or doctor?”
Simply asking this question can provide us almost instant relief because the answer is obvious, we came here to care and to make things better for others. We came here to save the day. We came here because we have a simple and pure desire to make a difference. When we remember why we came here, it becomes easier to see that all those people who are treating us poorly, whose behaviors are so toxic, are really in need of our care. These are the hurting humans we came here to care about. They each present us with an opportunity to get more from life.
I saw you
Yesterday, when I arrived at the hospital, I saw you. You were stepping outside the ordinary, and taking extraordinary steps to walk the extra mile for a patient who was not appreciative of your efforts. I could see how he felt entitled to have special treatment, and treated you with disrespect and disdain. Still, you were steadfast in your resolve to handle the situation, to make it better no matter what the cost.
Your patient and his family were deaf, and although none of them were badly injured, they were upset and frustrated. Their car was totaled in an accident on the interstate. They were visiting from out of town, on a trip to Disney World in Florida. They needed a rental car. They needed a hotel. They did not know where to go. It was after-hours on the weekend. They did not have a laptop or internet access. They did not know where their car was, or how to retrieve their luggage. They were too emotional to think clearly, and because they were deaf, they could not make the necessary calls to secure a rental car or a hotel. They could not call their insurance company. They had no friends or family to help them.
It was the end of your shift. You had already “clocked out.” But I saw you take the time to kindly sit with this patient, get the number for the insurance company, find the police station responsible for handling the accident, track down the tow company, and make the calls that would allow them to retrieve their luggage. I watched as you called more than one company to find them the best price on a rental car, and then a hotel that could accommodate them, that was close by and in a safe part of town. All the while, they were nervous, frustrated, demanding, unhappy, impatient, unsatisfied and ungrateful.
Finally, when you realized that there were too many of them to fit in your car, I watched you print a Google map, highlight the route with a marker, print the information from the impound yard, the hotel and the rental car agency, and put each of them in separate envelopes. Then I watched you drive the dad to the rental car lot, go to the counter to help him, wait until he had secured the car, and then have him follow you back to the hospital to retrieve his family. I saw the smile on your face when the dad asked you your name, just before you drove away from our ambulance bay.
Hardwired to care
No, you are not a social worker or a travel agent. None of this was part of your job. You are just an ordinary human, who has a degree; you call yourself a medic, a nurse or a doctor. Yet, when you were tired, hungry and anxious to head home to your family, you stepped out of the ordinary, and walked the extra mile, putting the needs of your patients above your own. Your care made a difference. It saved the day. While it could be a day or two before his arrival in Florida, having the vacation of a lifetime, this was no ordinary day for you or them.
It had nothing to do with your training, your ability to start an I.V. or give medicine. It had to do with only one thing, your pure, uncorrupted desire to care. You did not get paid for your efforts, you did not get a thank you, and there were no accolades. But one thing is for certain, when you finally did get home to your family, you felt great, you were satisfied. That dad, and his entire family, will always remember you and your name. Giving care is not just what you do. Giving care, connecting to others, empathizing with them, feeling the pain of others as your own, and then pouring on the compassion and doing whatever it takes to make things better is who you are. Activating your desire to care, taking responsibility for making the situation better, gives you heroic power. You are a hero.
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You and all heroes all have one thing in common: You are hard-wired to care. Giving care makes you feel good, and it makes those you care for feel good as well. You may look ordinary, but because you act on your desire to care, you become larger than ordinary people. You actualize your desire by taking responsibility for the situation and asking how can I make it better?
You inspire me to do better. That is why I love working with you, even though we choose to work in the incredibly challenging environment we call the Emergency Department. It is here where we find a way to care for the angry, the entitled and the ungrateful – no matter what!
Inspire me! Next time you’re finding it difficult at work, remind yourself why you are here, then show me how Diana Prince transforms into Wonder Woman and Clark Kent becomes Superman! Save our day Peter Parker! Show me how your care gets you the very best life has to offer!
When we engage our desire, it gives us great power. Today and every day, act on your desire to care. This is how we make all the difference in the world.
Do your best always,