Thursday, June 10, 2010


The inside page of Conspire! magazine, vol. 1, issue 2//summer 2009 was Dispatches From The Front.

"Acts of profligate love, reckless hope, defiant goodness, paradoxical uselessness, and holy subversion undertaken or imagined by stumbling disciples, graced fools, uncertain insuragents and other foot soldiers in the peacable revolution."

The article lists "acts" that call me back to the Gospel. "Hang out with the folks who will inherit the earth." and "Let your yes be yes." and "See how the lillies of the field grow." Except for the military references, this could be the job description of a Chaplain. I pasted it on my wall this year. One of the "acts" that I have circled, highlighted and pondered is this,

Become disinterested in numbers

And, I've taken this to heart. This has helped me learn to simply be. Allow the pager to direct my day (when I am on call) and allow the interruptions by families, patients, colleagues and staff to occur. This has not been an easy thing for me. One week, I took this feeling, this inner trigger that "someone's getting more calls than me!" to supervision and explored it. My supervisor guided me with this wisdom, "Pay attention to the relationships" and the "numbers" will take care of themselves. And they have.

Without too much strain, I've kept my "50 visits per week" covenant. Some weeks were more (highest = 107) and some weeks were less (lowest = 37), but on average I made about 60 visits. I've learned about not getting competitive. Some of my colleagues sweep all their floors every week - like around 80 or even 100 on average. Some have fewer visits - like around 30 or 40. And so, I refrain...

Become disinterested in numbers.

That being said, I have learned something by looking at my numbers for the year.

141 Deaths
79 Life-threatening Traumas
2,549 Pastoral Visits
59 Health Care Power of Attorney Assistances
28 Pharmacy Assistance interventions
60 Over-night "On Calls"

What does this tell me? One, that there is quite a bit of uncertainty in life. Two, that there is no shortage of human need. Three, I have much to be grateful for.

I have learned that:
  • even after 141 deaths, there really is no pattern to how families grieve. Some are short (7 minutes) and some are long (3 hours plus). Some are emotionally draining and some are puzzling. All are as unique as fingerprints.
  • while a gun shot wound is often cause for being in the trauma bay, it doesn't kill you. Bee stings might. Unhelmeted motorcycle accidents might. Being stabbed by your cousin might.
  • even if I ask the patient some deeply thoughtful open-ended question, they may just want to know what time of day it is. They may just want to know that someone has fed their dog. They may just want to watch TV with someone.
  • we don't make "magic mouthwash" in the pharmacy anymore. Most other prescriptions are very, very expensive.
  • 60 on-call nights spent in the hospital means two months not spent at home.
Become disinterested in numbers.
I'm grateful for God. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from all 3,158 recorded visits and all the visits that were not recorded.
And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes. - Luke 24:52-53


  1. this post is so great. you forgot to list how many blog posts you've done this year!!! (being disinterested in numbers and all). thanks for this post, I especially like the lessons you learned and I'm hoping to get a hold of some magic mouth wash.

  2. And so this chapter concludes... this year of living on-call, facing trauma in the eye, relating to strangers, being present, present, present, in the midst of life's uncertainties, finding more commonalities than differences (when you don't pay attention to the numbers)! Thank you so much for this blog, so I could come, too!