I have been off for two days.  Prior to that, I worked five days.  These were busy ER shifts in the height of flu season.  At every turn, another head peaking out of a door, another person annoyed that we weren’t moving fast enough to resemble a fast-food restaurant.

Every time we looked at the numbers in the waiting room, they grew.  And into the mix were always patients with serious chest pain, impressive pneumonias, dehydration, headaches requiring spinal taps and all the standard, sick and dying fare of a modern hospital.  It was a busy, overwhelming time.

Mind you, I can’t complain.  Not much, really.  I made my bed in this specialty and love the emergency department. And this is just one of those times of the year when it will be very, very busy.

What I find, sometimes, is that I’m overwhelmed.  Not by how medicine is hard, though it can be, but simply by being with people.  Eight or nine busy hours of non-stop talk and decisions, endless interactions with other professionals, constant interviews and exams of patients and discussions with them and their family members…and I’m tired.

I don’t think we all realize how very much we need a break.  My friend Doug used to intentionally take days off and go to Atlanta with his wife just to walk around shopping centers and  business areas and realize that life, outside the ER, is remarkably mundane. That was what he needed to center.  But what we all need, as much as we need reminders of the general normalcy of life, is to withdraw and enjoy a little quiet.

Now for me, quiet isn’t really quiet.  It’s the musical voice of my wife, the endless laughter of my children.  Both set against the backdrop of relative silence provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains where we live.

But my point is this:  we talk and do so much in our jobs as health-care providers that it’s probably best for us, and for our patients, to admit we’re tired and cranky, admit we’re overwhelmed, and withdraw for a while; even if only a few hours.

Even Jesus tried to get away from the crowds now and then.  Even he became tired, and needed a break from the constant demands and needs of the masses who followed him from place to place.

If he needed a break, trust me, so do we.  And we don’t need to feel guilty about it!

Have a quiet, restful day,


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