In a hospital minute (NaBloPoMo Day 8/30)

A lot can happen in a hospital minute. A baby is born. A life-changing diagnosis is made. The wrong medication is sent to a patient’s room. Sometimes a minute lasts a lifetime, starring at your feet in silence when asked a question on rounds, waiting in line at the coffee bar, riding the elevator up to your car – because car = home = sleep.

Yesterday I spent roughly 750 minutes in the hospital. My favorite minutes were:

1. Playing Minion Rush with a patient on her iPad. I lost
2. Filing that note I spent 2 hours writing. It took some work; I didn’t know half the words I put in there
3. Devouring a giant chocolate chip cookie
4. Watching the family dead in the eyes and acknowledging their fears when

Then I left, went home, and then to a concert. Then this morning I woke up looking like death, which is never ok, but definitely not cool when working with children. Thankfully, they are usually too busy screaming their lovely heads off to notice.

There is time to slow down a little and take in the minutes. There is (almost) always time. In medicine, we are mostly Type A gotta go-go-go people who add more things to their to-do list when it’s starting to thin out because the thought of an empty to-do list is simply incomprehensible. Not only do we make to-do lists, we draw check boxes next to each item and develop an elaborate code to keep track of tasks within tasks. A half filled box means the test or the phone call has been made, but the result is still pending. Some use color codes. Indeed, medicine is the only workplace where carrying one of those four-color-in-one pens, the ones we geeked over as middle schoolers when they first came out. Then we “run the list [of patients]” and make sure no tasks have fallen through the cracks. The complexity of patient care, the volume of patients, the frequent transitions of care between teams, and lest we forget the fatigue that sets in in the nth hour, make it imperative to keep track of what we do.

I never make a “play Minion Rush” box or a “ask about the sibling who came to visit yesterday” box. Since the start of intern year, I am now making check boxes for my grocery list or for neglected bills that need tending. Funny enough, things like “go to yoga” or “email back the dear friend who wrote to you from halfway around the world” never seem to merit their own boxes. Nor do I ever make “do nothing” box. A “live in the moment box”? Say whaaaat?

And yet – and yet – aren’t those boxes the ones that really matter in the end? I won’t remember that I ordered the correct heparin flush, but I will never forget sitting on the floor with a child who launches minions onto a conveyer belt and laughs her head off every single time.

There is (almost) always time. I haven’t found extra time this month so far to write daily because suddenly quantum physics no longer apply and days are in fact 25 hours long. I am taking the time. I am choosing to do what matters to me. To live outside the boundaries of a check box. What a concept.

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