Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “How much of human life is lost in waiting.” At first glance, he seems to have a point. We wait in grocery store and bank lines. We wait in heavy traffic produced by road construction, an automobile accident, a freight train, or even an oblivious group of geese crossing a busy road. We wait in long lines at amusement parks to ride a favorite ride or experience a popular attraction. We wait at bus stops and airports. We wait at sporting events. We wait in offices – doctor’s, dentist’s, tax preparer’s, attorney’s, insurance agent’s, realtor’s, clergy members’. We wait hours in line for the first showing of a new movie, even going as far as to bring a chair to sit on, sleeping bag to lie on, or tent in which to stay warm. We wait for the announcement of the winning lottery numbers. We wait for the phone to ring or to receive a text message from a child driving a couple of hours to a friend’s house.
Consider the following paradox: The same persons that normally hate waiting in traffic jams and in line at department stores will brave congested mall roads and wait for hours in the very early morning on Black Friday for the store doors to open to get the advertised best deals and choice pickings of limited “on sale” products. What makes people who normally hate waiting choose to put themselves in heavy traffic and long lines of waiting? Why might one situation be experienced as “frustrating” and “annoying” and the other be fully acceptable and freely chosen?
Much is being researched and written on the subject of Physician/Nurse compassion, empathy, and care fatigue. Just a few examples on the subject from the past few months are the following:
- When Nurses Catch Compassion Fatigue, Patients Suffer
- Researcher takes on ’empathy fatigue’ in the workplace
- Association of an Educational Program in Mindful Communication With Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes Among Primary Care Physicians
If you’re anything like me, if and when feeling fatigued, you may notice that you feel more irritable, moody, easily frustrated, less optimistic. Moreover, you may find that your ability to listen, focus, be present, give freely (without expectation of anything in return), express compassion and empathy, and the like are somewhat or even severely impaired.
As a hospital chaplain intern several years ago…