Today I went to two classes, each four hours long: "Workplace conflict" and "Witnessing Suffering." Both were useful, fun, informative, etc.
The morning was "Workplace conflict" and the first incredibly useful thing I learned was that the scenario at work that I find the most difficult part of my job (it's a specific type of doctor to doctor interaction) was exactly what the other folks found toughest. It was funny because a lot of what we did was almost like a mutual support group for palliative care docs. These folks from all over the country had the same kinds of issues as me in little old New Hampshire. That was very comforting: a) it's not me personally b) it's the field in general. We did a role play and the feedback I got was that what I thought we were in conflict about was not the actual conflict. In fact, by the end, some one proposed as a rule of dealing with conflicts if you think you know what the conflict is about, you're wrong. I thought that was good. This happened over and over. As an example, in one scenario, we were being two doctors who felt the work was distributed unfairly between them. My doc's real concern was that she was working so hard she was burning out--would she be able to do this on a longer term, what would happen if she couldn't, was there another job she could do, etc. The other doc's real concern was that she was a bad mother because she had not planned ahead for her daughter's graduation. We were fighting about whether or not I could work an extra day the next week. A good lesson because I think it was actually extremely true to life, not necessarily the exact scenario because my group is very congenial about how we divide the work, but the idea that in conflict, you often don't get to the real issues, often don't even know what the real issues are.
The second workshop was on "Witnessing Suffering." The reason I signed up for it is that sometimes I feel like there is so much suffering all around me that it is all I can do to keep my head above water. And I want to do more than that; I want to help my patients with their suffering if I can. Sometimes the only help one can offer is to witness the suffering and if that is the case, I wanted to be doing it as effectively as possible and also to see if there were any self-care strategies that I could learn. One of the strategies (not explicitly stated, but very present in our discussion) was being gentle with oneself, celebrating the victories even if they are just partial and talking with one's team. Again, what a great team I have because we can and do discuss these things. He had us do this exercise where for 7 (!) minutes, we were supposed to notice everything red and write it down in a list. We could get up and walk around, but not talk with each other. Then at the end, the objects of interest were not the lists of red things, but what we had observed about ourselves during the act of observing red things. An interesting thing people talked about was discernment: was this red enough to be called red? how after you got all the things that were big and obvious, you started to look for little red things, etc. The idea was to see which of the observations were analogous to looking at and for suffering and which were not. We did a lot of story telling in pairs and kept switching partners. One of the women I talked with told me a story about a young woman with AML whose family she had prepared for the patient's death and then weeks after getting chemo, when it had been clear that it wasn't working because she was getting worse and worse, she suddenly went into remission. Well, I had been prepared to tell a completely different story than the one I did tell when it was my turn to tell a story about suffering.
I am going out to dinner tonight with some conference goers who I connected with on linked in so hopefully we will have a good time and I would like to tell you more about the conference, but must go put on respectable clothes (or the best imitation of that I can do).
Hey! Check this out! Terry was nominated for a favorite artist award on Seacoastonline. Here is where you can vote for him in the category of functional art.
I will wish for myself continued incredible learning and for you the same.