A note to my healthcare colleagues.

I’ve spent the last several months doing my work as a chaplain and doing my work teaching and consulting and doing my work writing here.

I like my work.

I realized the other day, listening to a conversation about moments of failure, that I don’t actually have many moments of failure. Of making an attempt and falling short in a catastrophic way. There are some actual ones, but in truth, most of the failures that I have imagined have never happened, mostly because I haven’t taken the steps that could result in the imagined failure.

Which is fine.

Nancy and I aren’t “bet the farm” people. We are more “tend the farm” people. I don’t talk here attempting to address craziness. I am more interested in coreness.

It means, however, that I haven’t done what I could to talk with some of you who have had a really hard eighteen months. That hardness has come because you have been walking into healthcare settings and holding hands and listening to labored breathing and watching your coworkers cry. And then you have listened to swirling arguments suggesting that what you and I see doesn’t actually exist, what you and I treat isn’t really that bad, what you and I are doing isn’t really necessary.

“If only we would” is how many of the arguments start. “You can’t tell me” is how they continue.

I’m the wrong kind of doctor for creating and evaluating medical treatments.

I am the right kind of doctor to know the ways that words and attitudes can destroy hope and relationship. (“Social” distance rather than the more accurate “physical” distance is an example of a harmful choice of words, for example.) And I have the right kind of discernment to know that you, and you, and you are heartbroken.

I wish I knew what to say that would stop us spending so much energy arguing about positions while you and I are watching people dying from things that seem to us to be simply preventable. Whether viral or violent or vehicular or despairing, people are in our rooms and in our care.

I don’t have the energy to research every over simple or half-true or unnuanced or actually false statement or allegation. I haven’t enough said “slow down” or “call someone” or “wear a mask” or “get out of the house.” I don’t have the willingness to say, “please consider getting vaccinated” because I simply don’t have enough time to spend responding to everything I would then hear, often repeated from fear rather than reflection.

And you don’t have enough time for all the debate either. Because you are showing up for work, feeling like you can’t do enough.

What I know is that I’m willing to accept the risk of a vaccination, and that I will keep wearing a mask at least at work, so that I can continue to walk with you into healthcare settings and provide care. If the worst of the projections are true, I’ll still be talking with people who are grieving from losses that seem preventable. And I’ll be reading prayer requests from Facebook acquaintances following long hospitalizations.

And I’ll be talking with you.

There are very many things that Jesus didn’t specifically address. That self-sacrificing love, which is rooted in whole-hearted love and relationship with God, is something that he actually did specifically address.

And you are concerned with practically working out what it means to offer compassionate love to the person in front of you. And it costs you.

So friend who is feeling beat up as you offer care, I hear. This is hard. Thank you. Be careful. See you at work.

One thought on “A note to my healthcare colleagues.

  1. Gary Mintchell

    Thank you for these thoughts. I am far removed from your world. It’s good for people like me to hear these in order to raise an empathy quotient once in a while to remind us of important things.

    We’re in the midst of a road trip. The purpose was to attend a memorial service for an aunt who died during the pandemic when gatherings and travel were discouraged. We’ve gone through several “southern” states (Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, now in Oklahoma). We met many nice and friendly people. Helpful people. It’s a refreshing reminder after too much news and “anti-social” media.


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