Part of my early job days has included tons and tons of CBT - computer-based training. It involves going through various modules on the computer ranging from HIPAA regulations to MRI safety (crazy machines, those MRIs). Well, today, as I'm working my way through the never-ending checklist of modules I come across one titled "Caring for the Dying Child: Grief." Whoa now, this is a little different than the importance of protecting your password or cleaning up spills on the floor. So, since its the next on said checklist, I open it and start working my way through.
About half-way through I get this pit in my stomach. As I'm reading through the various grieving processes patients, parents and siblings go through when dealing with a life-limiting disease I start to feel uneasy. Then as I read a statement about how children who are dying come to a point where they accept death, are no longer afraid of it and at times spend their last days comforting their families, I'm on the verge of tears. In my little "office," I find myself shifting uncomfortably in my chair, adjusting the bottom hem of my shirt, picking at my fingernails. I am able to make it through that module, take the test and move-on without shedding a tear.
Close call, right? Oh, but it's not over yet. The next module? "Caring for the Dying Child: The Dying Process." Are you kidding me?! Okay, I can do this, I can make it through this "silly" little training exercise...its just a bunch of interactive powerpoint slides with words on them. I get through maybe a quarter of the slides before that pit returns. I find myself getting the urge to check my e-mail, my phone, my facebook, anything to distract me. I read through educating parents and siblings on what to expect in the last days, hours and minutes of a child's life. And I start choking up a little.
WHY?? Why am I getting emotional about this? It's not like they were showing pictures of dying children or giving specific examples of patients. As I sat there trying to process my inexplicable discomfort/sadness, a realization came over me. I just came face-to-face with what my job would entail some days. This is what I've gotten myself into. I won't be treating just Alex the asthma patient, little Joey with a broken arm, or Sally's leg laceration. I will be seeing, treating and admitting kids who are sick, like really really sick. Like incurable sick. While I'll come across healthy, happy kids, I'll have contact with kids who have been inside hospitals far too much in their short lives. Some of my patients won't live to have a first kiss, get their driver's license or attend prom. It will make my job hard some days, but it will also make it that much more rewarding. I'll have a chance to make an impact on these kiddos and families who are suffering or scared. Maybe I'll have the opportunity to make someone's hospital trip/stay a little easier or less frightening, at least for a short time. And who knows - maybe I'll learn something about myself or life along the way?
Is it going to be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Absolutely, 100%, yes.