The room number flashed on my screen. As the elevator slowly climbed, I made a silent assessment of how I would likely react.
Only 24 hours ago, I bid farewell to someone for one final time in the same room.
I stepped inside, only to be greeted with such an overwhelming amount of hope that it’s almost suffocating.
…Here we go again. The frailty of life is always the bigger picture, although each story unfolds differently. In fact, some of them won’t end in death. Well, not yet.
Whenever someone died, I like to give myself time to reflect on each person’s history and legacy. My meticulous mental calendar does not give preference to birthdays over deaths. I allow myself to feel sad, happy, disappointed, inspired… whatever it may be. That’s how I learn, grow, and “move on.”
I am comfortable with the way I deal with death and dying. What I am uncomfortable with is our healthcare system’s relative lack of competence in dealing with death besides fighting it, frowning upon it, or forgetting about it. It’s probably easier for those of us in the “softer” speciality areas to reach out. Anecdotally, I seldom hear surgeons discuss the death of a patient, unless it is the technical aspect of things. A recent review highlights how little systematic research has been done in the past 2 decades to help physicians deal with grief: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366454/
While everyone deals with issues of death and dying differently, how we cope may indirectly compromise job satisfaction and quality of care. Just because one has seen thousands of deaths doesn’t mean one is now an “expert” in coping with death. Within healthcare settings, it’d be nice to encourage ongoing death education and grief support to staff at all levels of care.