Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Practicing Patience

Tuesday, July 7 7:45 PM (not posted until Wednesday afternoon)

It is my understanding (with very limited knowledge) that all the great spiritual traditions value patience as a virtue. if so, then I am luckily getting a lot of practice cultivating patience.

On Monday the 4 Rehabilitation Technician students began their first Clinical Internship treating patients on the wards at HAS. I knew I could not juggle 4 of them, so I divided them into two groups, AM and PM. I had no real idea what to expect about their performance.

The hardest part of the task was patience---standing back and watching them ever so slowly step forward and begin to work. A snail’s pace would be an exaggeration of the speed of the work. I waited. I tried to stay back and give cues only when needed and only in the most general way possible.

In one case, the second patient of the day, just standing and hesitating actually paid off. The young man did not want to get out of bed. He said “I can’t” over and over again. Somehow the student finally managed to get him sitting on the edge of the bed. The “I can’t” continued. I was more than ready to throw in the towel and try again tomorrow--but the student hesitated and waited. Somehow, some way she finally got the patient to stand up and take a few steps with crutches. Waiting worked, much to my amazement. When I told his Swiss Surgeon this morning that the guy walked yesterday, he also was amazed.

Throughout yesterday and today, my emotions have been on a roller coaster, nonstop up and down. One minute I see a student finally move forward and do some treatment and I am jubilant---multiple foreign teachers have trudged to Haiti and given these students a skill that could not be found anywhere else in Haiti--and they will take these skills and use them. The next minute I crash as their inexperience and lack of knowledge shows up in their hesitation and inability to plan how to structure the treatment.

Yet, just briefly this morning during rounds on the wards with the surgeons, I had a moment of thinking--this is fun! Of course rounds provides the best opportunity to interact with the MD’s and others and to learn about the patients--part of the heart of clinical work. I must confess that I would rather be DOING the treatments than watching and supervising and teaching the students. That is why I am a full time clinician and a part time teacher.

My job here, though, this time is to teach. To prepare others who live here to do this work. I am practicing patience.

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