We all have rituals.  Whether in medicine or not, we have little things we do that prepare us for work, or sustain us through the hours we spend making a living.  For instance, when I’m driving to work, I go to Jack-in-the-Box.  There, I get a large half-Coke, half diet-Coke; I also get a large sweet iced tea with no ice.  When the Coke is done, I fill up the cup with the tea. Sometimes I get their excellent egg-rolls, or a Jumbo Jack cheeseburger.  I’m a Jack addict, and proud of it.
The staff know me.  They’re gracious and kind and always smile as they fill my order.  We have a kind of relationship; I’ve given copies of my books to several of the folks who work there.

I think we can relate to one another.  In a way, Jack-in-the-Box resembles an ER.  It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Everything is made to order.  The service and product is outstanding.  The public is always welcome, rain or shine.

But that’s my system.  I have friends who have to stop at our new Starbucks in Clemson, SC for some expensive incarnation of coffee.  One partner always brings a bag of pretzels that are apparently made from salted granite, and could have been used in a catapult in days gone by.  Another drinks almost an entire case of Tab each shift.

As we go from room to room, patient to patient, doing very similar things from day to day, seeing silly things and terrible ones, we need small comforts.  Whether it’s a favorite CD playing in the lounge, a favorite website to check during a break in patients, a bit of chocolate or a large iced tea, these things help sustain us.

As I’m driving to work, I have another ritual.  I say this:  ‘Lord watch over Jan, Sam, Seth, Elijah and Elysa.  Watch over the patients we’ll see, and let no one be critically ill or injured, be killed or die.  And let me not make any serious errors in anyone’s care.  In Jesus name, Amen.’

I know it’s been answered over and over again.

So, what are your rituals?  What gets you through the shift?  What gets you through the night?  How do you endure the monotony, fatigue, tragedy and adrenaline rushes?  Tofu?  Chicken wings?  A cup of Earl Gray?  A cigarette in the parking lot?  I’m not judging anyone.

As hard as our work can be, I’m glad you found something to sustain your heart, mind and body in the long hours that you pace the concrete floors of the world’s hospitals, struggling to always to the right thing.

Have a great weekend!  I’m very proud of you.

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