Welcome. Or welcome back.
Over at my daily blog, 300wordsaday.com, I wrote this week about National Nurses Week and the tradition of the blessing of the hands.
I have to confess, I have a hard time reading the formal words of others in those times. I’m not good a reading the scripts of others. I’m more comfortable writing and reading my own script. The process of writing helps me think.
So, shortly before we started walking through the hospital, talking to and blessing the hands of nurses and techs and doctors and an EVS worker, this is what I wrote:
In healthcare, we touch people. Or you do.
(Chaplains hardly ever do.)
You touch people at their worst and messiest times. And care for the worst and messiest things.
In most cultures, it’s called being unclean. For you, it’s a calling and a job and an opportunity.
And it was for Jesus, too. In his time, all the things you do? Religious people would have said it made you unclean.
Jesus touched each of those people to show them that to someone, they mattered. It got him in trouble, of course. But it told individuals that they matter.
And so, today, chaplains are circulating through the building.
We’re seeing coworkers we usually only see in really bad times.
But now, we can smile.
And ask God’s blessing on your hands, and hearts, as you show people, one by one, that they matter.
We’ll put some oil on your palm or on the back of your hand. It’s not magic, of course. And it will wash off the next time you scrub.
But oil across time has healed and anointed.
May God help you feel healed and anointed.
God, bless this oil to heal and to celebrated. Bless these coworkers whom I respect so much as they care for the people who come into this place. Amen.
“May God bless your heart and your hands as you care for the sick.”
If you are a healthcare worker, this is for you, too. If you know one, care for them.
Starting more research: Waiting is hard.
Sometimes I like to say things that are almost universally felt.
A few times a week I say, "One of the first things I noticed when I started working in the hospital is how much waiting there is. For tests, for answers, for questions, for help. Even, sometimes, for death. So I've been trying to figure out how to help. I'm still working on that."
And then I talk and listen. I listen for what is within my scope to help. And I know that presence and words and (sometimes) my odd sense of humor are helpful.
But I'm wondering what more could be helpful.
So I'm asking you for what you've found particularly helpful or not helpful when waiting in healthcare settings. (Leave a comment or reply to this email)
I'll use the answers to figure out what more I can do, what more we can do, in being helpful in the waiting.
I wrote about waiting a few years ago. It’s part of a book I haven’t finished yet. But this might be helpful as you think about waiting.
Tell people what they are waiting for.
The dad had been keeping vigil for a couple days. His adult daughter was in the bed, in rough shape. There had been tests and assessments and visits from various doctors. And he was tired.
“I understand that things take time,” he said. “I know that people are busy and that there are lots of people here and that tests need to be processed. But I would like to know what I’m waiting for.”
He wanted to know, simply, what the tests will explain. What the medical professionals still will not know after these tests, or the next ones. He wants to know in simple terms the plan for where everyone around his daughter is going.
I’ve thought a lot about his words. He knew that the outcomes were not likely to be good. No one needed to protect him from those. But he needed to know how to talk to the rest of the family and to his own heart. And when those of us who are trying to figure out what is happening say, “We just have to wait”, we are leaving him unable to speak anything to others or himself.
How hard would it be for us to find something more specific to say? What are the answers we can offer?
Could we say something like this?
“We are going to come back within thirty-six hours. Sometimes people in this situation – with these symptoms, with these injuries, with these values, with these habits, with these struggles – sometimes people get better. About 1 in 10. And you might be that one. But we also know that people who spend all their time worrying end up not being any better prepared to handle the results. So here’s a path.
“We’ll watch for these medical things. Because we are trained for this. Our encouragement for you is that you get prepared for whatever. We recommend that you get rest and eat. That you talk about what it would look like to come home. That you talk about what it would look like to not come home. That you talk with someone who can help you talk through regrets and hopes and wishes and fights. That you ask for help. That you give us permission to be honest with you and with ourselves about the wishes and dreams of the person, family, enemies, and God. That you know that you are injured by this, too.”
The dad pursued conversations with a number of us. And I’m grateful. He was filling the waiting with preparation.
And preparing my heart for my next conversations.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for replying about what has helped you wait in healthcare settings.
And thanks for your support.
"Tell people what they are waiting for.” That’s such a good description of so many of the areas people need to think through and talk through as they await results. Helpful.
(Sorry if this shows up twice. I thought I’d posted here and in Notes, but it only showed up in Notes)
I agree that it's helpful to know what you're waiting for. Also, if possible, how long you can expect to be waiting. I think being informed (err on the side of overinformed) and checked in on from time to time - if nothing else to know you haven't been forgotten - makes waiting easier. I also appreciate efforts to make waiting more physically comfortable - questions: Do you need anything? Is there anything I can get you?