For years I took my time and delayed working in a hospital for a ton of reasons. But when I finally made the decision and began my first week in the ward, I felt a gnawing apprehension take over me as I lay awake in bed after a grueling shift. Nurses are supposed to care. It’s what we do. But most importantly, it’s what we feel.
This might already be you
There is a real danger when caring begins to lose its emotional dimension and becomes nothing but a verb. The moment it does, we all simply go through the motions and follow protocols, hand in reports, take vital signs, give medications, and do everything else like unfeeling robots eager to just finish the job, end the shift and move on. This usually happens when, to the well-seasoned nurse, the ubiquitous air of anxiety, distress and sadness in the hospital becomes routine and commonplace. Familiarity breeds apathy. If you come face to face with pain every single day, you’ll need a much larger dose of it to make you feel again.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel
But we need it to cope
We cannot experience the full intensity of every grief that enters the hospital day after day. It’s flat out destructive, and to begin with, it’s not exactly possible. God only knows how many healthcare workers would die of depression if this actually happened. But what we need is a healthy level of emotional distance – not passivity.
Indifference destroys vocation unlike any other intangible force, for the reason that it shakes the very core of our motivation for doing what we do. The drive that enables us to get up in the morning, show up to work, and be completely and wholeheartedly present in every single moment of that eight (or twelve) – hour shift shuts down and the only thing that keeps us going is obligation, necessity, or the need to get by. And of course, three seconds later, we’re shattered and exhausted and we wonder why.
A year ago today
A year ago today, I cared more. But the truth is, nearly everyone from every walk of life cared more, too. And realizing and acknowledging this human tendency is the first step in overcoming it.