Friday, July 01, 2016

On standing in the midst of trauma

As a chaplain who responds as part of the trauma team at my large regional trauma center, I occupy a strange role. While the rest of the trauma team rushes to put on lead vests and gowns and masks and hats, I stand quietly. 

When a patient arrives by air or ground I listen to report from the paramedics, listening for our patient's name, age, location & whether or not their family knows where they are. I work with police and other EMS workers and charge nurses to find and notify family members. But a lot of the time I just stand quietly. 

Early in my career, I struggled with not having a "task" in the midst of trauma response. But an emergency room tech at the hospital where I worked in Colorado stated it best, "chaplains represent comfort. You remind us that God is with us in this mess. You help us keep going." 

In a trauma response I care for patients, but I also care for staff. 

Recently I responded to an extraordinarily difficult trauma. The traumas that involve grave injuries with little chance of survival wear on medical staff. It causes our staff pain when a patient is unidentified and their family doesn't know where they are. This situation involved all of these factors. 

I just stand in the pain with our staff and remind them that they are cared for. I believe that my calming and quiet presence is a steadying influence. That my "care through proximity" for the team contributes to resilience. I'm available if they need me, and they know my face for future situations. I accompany physicians when they notify family members that their loved one has died. I exude a quiet strength, and like caring for my patients, my message is, "I am here with you." 

1 comment:

mbick said...

One of my favorite quotations is John Milton's "They also serve who only stand and wait." You have correctly identified your role to the ER staff that you serve with, and it is no small thing to bear witness to the trauma and help the patient, family, and the ER staff deal with it. Peace and blessings.