No doubt one of the things that contributes to burn out among ER docs and nurses is the harsh and unrelenting invective heaped upon them daily – no, let’s make that hourly – by humans wrecked by any number of poor choices or just random unfortunate events.
But here’s the thing: I get it. If you’ve seemingly lost all control over your fate because your body has been nearly destroyed by tragic health events, being nasty is the last domain of personal agency you have – and I get that what you are expressing is an anguished howl of pain lashing out at whoever is close enough to receive it. It’s meant to be brutal, because what you have been through is brutal. These patients have become masters of heaping abuse on their caretakers – the only immediate people in their environment. And I’m not talking about rude, I’m talking about aggressively doing everything possible to resist any attempt to receive help, sometimes screaming abuse at the top of their lungs while you are trying to administer care at close quarters. I have actually put in earplugs because I was afraid of further damaging what hearing I still have.
But again, I get it – I understand their pain, and I do my best to empathize and listen. So the meaner and more resistant they get, the nicer and more reassuringly helpful I become. I know it’s not personal, so I don’t take it that way.
Now I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I’m better at this than others – but I try. I sometimes think What would Atticus Finch do?
It’s important to have good role models, even if they are fictional.