I love walking into the offices of obstetricians, family doctors or pediatricians, where pictures of children and their parents cover the walls.  It’s a beautiful tribute to what those practices do; they help bring children into the world, they keep those children healthy, they protect them in sickness and give parents peace of mind.

Considering modern privacy laws, I doubt if we could do the same thing in the ER.  The thing is, while families love for their babies to be featured in photographic collages, few want to be remembered for their last really big alcohol binge, their huge heart attack, or that cat bite that became infected.  Few people want to remember their emergency department visits at all.  You know what I mean:  ‘Look honey!  That’s you when you ate too many hot-dogs and vomited on the nurses!  What a nice picture!’

But there are some pictures we could put up.  I realized this a long time ago, and never acted.  I wish I had. 

What I should have done was start a wall of family photos in our doctor’s lounge.  It would have served as wonderful solace on busy shifts, on lonely nights, on early mornings when we all feel so distant from the ones we love most.  Our nurses already do this.  Their lockers are wonderful to behold, covered with images of husbands and wives, children and parents, friends, co-workers and even pets.  To walk by their lockers is to look inside their hearts; at what motivates them to continue the difficult job they do; and at the people and things that truly give them earthly delight.

It could have been the same for the physicians in our group.  Maybe we wouldn’t have seen so many marriage problems if the faces of our loving wives and amazing children had looked down on us as we dictated charts, or as we sat to rest, on the arduous, sometimes tragic, shifts that we endured year after year.

It certainly would have been a reminder to be thankful for their well-being; and thankful for our jobs, that have provided so well for the needs of the spouses and children God entrusted to us.

No artwork could have compared.  And as I sit in this lounge this morning, looking around at plates, soda bottles, junk mail, drug samples, unused fruit, the breeding ground of running shoes and all the flotsam of our medical lives, I can see that beauty of any sort would have been, make that would be, a welcome addition.  What could be more beautiful than my wife, my three sons, my daughter all smiling at me while I work?

I think I’ll start it now.  Maybe it isn’t too late.  Possibly it will offer a new perspective to our younger members.  Perhaps it will sustain all of us as we grow older, and hopefully wiser, in the practice of medicine, the practice of life, the practice of love.

So let me encourage you to do it as well.  Take photos and put them on the walls.  Ignore anyone that talks about fire-hazards, or fire-codes.  The only thing that will set the ER on fire is the patients. 

Let your day at work be llifted up and made lovely by the faces of those you love; spouse, child, parent, friend or lover. 

Maybe the days and nights will be a little easier for all of us that way.



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