Thursday, March 02, 2006

Multi-Tasking Mayhem

During an 8-hour flurry of non-stop activity today, I wondered what possible toll multi-tasking on a grand scale might have on one's brain. I was quite conscious throughout the day that, no matter how determinedly I approached a specific task in the course of the day, that task was inevitably interrupted and superceded by the next challenge rearing its head. No sooner had I responded to a telephone call from one patient and begun to document that conversation, the next situation arose and demanded my attention. At several of the most challenging moments, my mind reeled in temporary repose---not the repose of calm, more like an over-taxed computer going on "stand-by". Did I reboot my hard drive? Did I run out of memory? No, just a fleeting loss of power. Luckily, I have a built-in surge protector.

The day was punctuated by several minutes sitting quietly with a depressed patient, his eyes watering as he told me his family history. It was a typical story in many ways: death, abandonment, depression, poverty. Ah, the human stories. Just having met this gentleman last week, we are still becoming acquainted. I sat facing him with open gaze and body language. The rest just flowed.....

The majority of the day was jockeying telephone calls, negotiating medication refills and urgent calls, and managing the reams of papers and charts littering my desk, all screaming for my attention. It is those very human moments amidst the chaos which may sometimes allow one a moment to center and be fully present, the multiple tasks on the desk momentarily in suspended animation. The crush of unending tasks, although a seemingly necessary evil of such work, only serve to further burden the compassionate heart and mind. It is one's ability to remain fully human under such circumstances that saves one from a certain type of spiritual death at work.
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