I have been thinking and writing for a couple of years now about the struggles in emergency medicine. I have come to realize the importance of what we do and the reality of how difficult it is. I was at work the other day, dealing with the 5th chronic back pain of my shift, losing my cool, and feeling like everyone I meet is a loser. I started to tell myself, " Great concept, this medicine as ministry, but how in the hell do you keep this perspective 6 hours into a shift with difficult, demanding, sometimes crazy patients?" How in the world do we bring the ideals of our practice into the reality of our practice.
Stop for the One.
It is overwhelming to take care of 20-30 patients in eight hours and at the same time be mindful of all these lofty but true ideas. It's great that medicine changes lives. It's powerful that emergency medicine is at the front lines of humanitarian needs like poverty, mental health, domestic violence. It's true that in a given day we literally save and transform lives. But it's also true that it can be a drag. It can be a real drain on the soul.
So how do we do it? How do we allow these ideals to practically influence our work? I have found that when I can train my brain and spirit to be present with the one patient in front of me, I can hang on to the ideal that I am ministering health to them. I can see that one person as a human being in need. I can care about this one. I can't end poverty. I don't have a solution for the desperate condition of our community's mental healthcare system. But I am here, now, with this person. I can't fix it all, but I can care for the one.
"Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. In the slums we are the light of God's kindness to the poor. To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile - give them not only your care, but also your heart."
- Mother Theresa