There are times lately when I feel empty. (That sentence feels stronger to me than I actually mean, but I'll leave it for now.)
Still don't know about this new job. Being with people who are dying and their loved ones is meaningful, but there's so much else with this job that just doesn't feel like a good fit for me.
- It's a "for-profit" hospice. Corporate atmosphere. Policies. An emphasis on productivity numbers. All that stuff. I left the corporate world in 1994. For important reasons. And here I am back in it. I'm living for the weekends, and I promised myself I'd never have that feeling again.
- Meaningful conversations are hard to come by. Most of our patients are very old and are already unable to really talk. I sit by their beds and read Scripture or play some music, and I pray. And hope they can somehow sense God's presence. Sometimes I feel good about doing that; other days it just feels like I'm going through the motions, I must admit. And what does that say about me?
- It's a medical model, of course -- the whole thing is centered on a medical model in the nursing homes that I visit. (The hospice's parent company runs the nursing homes - that's where the vast majority of our patients come from.) And visiting nursing homes...I don't know...at first I was impressed with how pretty they are; they are decorated beautifully, and there's never a bad smell. They're 'high class' nursing homes, I guess you'd say. But for all that, there are some days I walk those halls and catch a glimpse of someone, sitting on the side of his bed, all alone, or watching television alone. The nurses are good--for the most part, very good. But they cannot attend to everyone in a timely way. People are so dependent. In Being Mortal Atul Gawande says the three worst things about nursing homes are loneliness, boredom, and powerlessness. Have to say I agree, and it's painful for me, some days, to see it. As a society we do indeed warehouse the elderly, keeping them out of view, and hence, out of mind.
- Chaplains are part of the medical hospice team, along with nurses and social workers. We're not an after-thought, but it's a medical model that we're fitting ourselves into. It's not a stimulating environment; theological issues/thinking are not part of it, not valued. Perhaps at some point, if I stay, I'll write some articles to keep me challenged theologically.
- Really, I'm finding the job fairly boring. Most of it is driving, keeping up with the electronic medical records, and, at times, rarely, a meaningful conversation. I'm the bereavement coordinator as well, so I'm in the office at least two days a week, keeping records, sending sympathy cards, calling the bereaved (who, for the most part, are pretty much OK; after all, these are old old people and the deaths are usually expected.) The variety between being in the office and being in the field is OK; it provides some variety, which I like. But, again, it's just not interesting to me.
- We meet every two weeks -- the interdisciplinary team -- to talk about the patients, but usually those meetings are pro forma. Thought they might be interesting, but they're not.
- Working such a strict Monday through Friday schedule. Ugh. I loved being able to come in to work around 11:00 and work until 8:00. I was able to run errands in the morning, and I had Friday off for doctors appointments. Made life so much easier. And I'm on call one week a month, when I'm tied to my phone.
- It's a lonely job, very isolating, really. When I run into a nurse or social worker from my company at one of the nursing homes, it's great -- we'll talk and talk and talk. It's a telltale sign on the isolation we're all dealing with, I think.
- And then there's the little false ego thing. My false ego misses being "the pastor" in a local church where I had an important role to play, one that gave me some strokes, and one that was incredibly meaningful to me.
- David says I've had enough time to evaluate whether the job is a good match for me. I was going to give it six months, but he's probably right. Do I really want to spent the next six or seven years, until I retire, doing this? But the idea of having to find another job is .... yuck, what, again?