On the day that my mom was having a critical surgery, we were in pre-op. I was trying to soak it all in, knowing this could be (but trusting it wouldn't be) goodbye.
In comes the surgeon who I hadn't met at that point. Barely a hello and then, "I do want to make sure you're aware of the potential risks including stroke, kidney failure, blahblahblahblahblah...and death." I don't remember all the dangers he listed, but he saved the doozy for last.
Yes, Man of 1,000 Classes, I understand the risks. I was just here walking the tension between releasing my mom to you and releasing her to the Lord. He's a lot better at this than you are, by the way. But I'm grateful you're good at that surgery part.
What's your worst example of a doctor covering their bum?
Your world is fine until the phone rings. You get that call and the world shrinks and priorities change and you enter a world you did not know.
The best definition of culture shock I've heard is that it's like moving into a new home and in each room you have to remember where the light switch is. You have to spend your time thinking about things you normally do without thinking. That's why it's exhausting. You don't normally think about where the dishes go or when the garbage is picked up. You just know.
In your new medical culture you have to think about everything. In the hospital it's how to park, when and where to eat, how to call the patient's room, who to contact back home with news. At home it's medical schedules and doctor visits, and home health. There's the new language you're learning and the new set of finances to deal with, and new people's names to remember. It's exhausting.
So do what expats do. Start by acknowledging what you're leaving behind. Choose what you will now make time for and shelve the rest. Step into your new culture expecting only that your expectations will not be met. Go in as a listener. Take notes. Let the medical professionals and other people in your new culture tell you how it is here. And if you don't understand something, ask. Better to feel foolish than to be lost.
Get on your feet. Your patient needs you. It's a new world.
This is William Attmore, known to my generation as Pop Attmore, one of the 70's Mouseketeers. He is recovering from being struck by a car, and from being in a diabetic coma. He is a miracle. And as he says, "What do you get the man who has everything for his birthday? Humility."
Being completely helpless and having a group of strangers bring you back to yourself is frightening. And the helplessness lingers long enough for you to have memories of more strangers helping you with bed pans, sponge baths, and gowns that don't close. There's no time to process the indignities, only submit.
As a non-staff clothed person in the room, you can help them step out of the fishbowl for awhile. Bring a blanket from home. Find their favorite channel. Or just talk about something normal.
My mom was having back pains, and my cousin, who works with sick kids, went around the hospital until somebody got her a wedge pillow. This stabilized mom's back, and worked for her through six months of stays in uncomfortable beds. Now at home, she still has that pillow and it comes in handy. It was something that gave her strength in times where she was most weak.
Find ways to bring your patient dignity and help them feel normal.