On a professional level, I enjoy going in and being trusted to assess the needs of patients and families. I'm getting a lot more comfortable praying with them and dealing with these very complex situations in a variety of developmental stages (and understanding the ways biological age may or may not intersect with spiritual maturity!)
But there is one thing I really don't like about the professional respect and responsibility I now hold. I miss the direct education that comes from shadowing the other chaplains. I am still learning about my own comfort levels and areas where I need to grow. I am still developing my own style as a pastoral caregiver.
I learned a lot during my unit of CPE. But my education was a little bit limited. I never had to deal with serious emergencies or critical care situations because I was serving at a nursing home. It was a fantastic experience. I had a ton of grandparents and buddies and I cried a LOT when I left. But nothing ever happened very quickly. Sure, I had my share of death I had to cover. But it was usually AFTER the death had happened. And most were rarely during the day when I was already there, so I usually had a good half hour in the car on my way to get myself together. I don't feel like I think on my feet very well, so on the one hand I appreciated not having to be put in that situation, but I can now recognize how much I need that experience.
This week I got the chance to shadow one of the chaplains and be exposed to both critical care and a bit of the ER. We went to the NICU which I really enjoyed. I was able to observe a lot and learn a lot about the unit, the atmosphere, the situations, and the ways of possibly handling things. Then we went down to the ER for a mock trauma. It was neat to stand back and watch (without all the blood and screaming!) but at the same time I could just FEEL how scripted the whole thing was. The ER has its own atmosphere, and in many ways it makes me very uneasy. There's always something about just being down there that makes me feel uncomfortable. I have no idea why it happens, I just do.
On an academic level, I learned about the various roles in traumatic situations, the kinds of support offered by each person, and the ways those roles overlap. On a more personal level, I don't feel like I internalized much of that information. If I were given a test on "what does this person do?" or "whose job is this?" I would probably pass, but I certainly wouldn't ace it. I think the only way it'll become a part of my own style and ministry is experience!
I'm definitely not ready to be thrown head first into those situations. On some level I feel like that fear is the reason I haven't applied for my next unit of CPE. I know that in my interview I will open my mouth about the desire to learn about these things and the next thing I know I'll be up to my ears in crap I don't know how to handle!
For now, I will continue to enjoy the experiences of shadowing and learning a little bit at a time!