Last Saturday a patient cared about me.
He had severe abdominal pain that had kept him up all night and he needed advice. By the time we agreed on a plan he had apologized, at least three times, for ‘bugging’ me on the weekend.
I explained that it’s okay to ask for help on weekends. I’m happy to help if I can, and the relationship is the most meaningful part of my work. I also thanked him for not abusing that relationship—for not taking me for granted, for seeing me not as a transactional service provider, but as a person with a life outside of work.
When we feel seen and appreciated, life is easier to take and we function better.
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Recently I’m thinking about organizational values and mission statements.
For the most part I find them superficial and unhelpful, wordy and convoluted.
As I consider the team I have led the past two years, I feel proud that although we have not formally written mission or values statements, we are nonetheless clear on both. We define them in succinct language, gauge how we manifest them through action, and reconcile behaviors, conflicts, and initiatives against them regularly.
Our values, collectively adopted one year ago:
- Fun, joy, creativity
- Collaboration and Connection
- Kindness and Compassion
Reviewing the list, I see that caring for one another serves as the foundation for this house. This applies both to the team’s inner work, as well as anything facing outward toward patients.
It is of course our responsibility as professional caregivers to manage ourselves and show up our best for our patients. I expect patients to treat our team with respect, but we should not necessarily feel entitled to their caring about us, per se. It is our job to care for them; the relationship is inherently imbalanced in that way. In order to do that well, we the team must also care for and support one another in service of our vocation.
So every once in a while, when a patient expresses genuine caring for me or a member of the team, in addition to appreciation for a job well done, it really brightens our day. It keeps us going. It makes all the unappreciative, and even abusive, encounters worth it.
Thus, we march on. We remember why we do this work and we hold each other up.
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Please know how much your expressions of affirmation matter to your medical team.
We’re all here caring for each other in this life. The more we can remember that and act on it, the better off we will all be, no?