A message to physicians from the chaplain

“Don’t do this if it isn’t your calling,” a police officer once said to me. But what’s a “calling?”

A calling is something deep inside of you that gets you up again after having fallen asleep in front of the computer charting your 14th code after being awake 22 hours on a 120-hour shift – and the pager goes off for code number 15, and you respond.

Your calling is something deep inside of you as you leave your family safe at home to go into an area where your colleagues say, “Careful: we can’t kill what she’s got;” and you go inside.

Your calling is something deep inside of you where, as you walk (or run) to the next patient you grab a handful of junk food off of someone’s desk, shredding the wrapper and eating it without tasting it because the last time you ate was more than 18 hours ago and the patient trays are starting to look enviable and you don’t have time to eat your prepared food. You glance at the restroom as you run past it with aching kidneys and a parched throat because “every second counts” and you don’t have time thinking: “just one more patient,” and you keep going.

Your calling is something deep inside of you when you walk inside and your family asks, “How was work?” and rather than saying, “You have no idea.” you simply say “fine” while pushing back the images and thoughts because you can’t have that here, and you smile.

Your calling is something deep inside of you that miraculously connects you intrinsically to your other like-minded team members, whom, suddenly you love, without knowing their names and whom you possibly will never see again after this code; but you smile at the memory and keep loving them.

“Don’t do this if it isn’t your calling” because talent won’t be enough.

For all the times you went into something not knowing if you would come out;
for all the times you went home with a prayer, “Dear Christ, please don’t let me take that thing inside to my family;”
for all the times you absorbed helpless rage while patient family members railed at you and cursed you for not raising the dead;
for all the times you held back tears while others sobbed in your arms;
for every night you stayed late missing your child’s good night story, so you could hold the hand of a fearful patient who didn’t want you to leave the bedside;
for every thankless encounter you endured so I could have a healthier day;
I just want to say: Thanks, Doctor.

-By Hilary Chala, M.Div., B.C.C., clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, certified crisis chaplain, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, certified disaster chaplain, International Orthodox Christian Charities, and senior staff chaplain, Houston Methodist Physician Organization

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