Tuesday, July 06, 2010

From Behind the Terminal....

Yes, I know I've been very quiet lately.  It's not that nothing relevant's been going on.  It is, rather, that I've been engaged in a couple of other projects that have focused away from the blog.

One of those has been preparation for peer review.  Peer review is required at intervals is required to maintain my Board Certification with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC).  It's actually required every five years.  However, they only started this five years ago; so, I'm only coming to it now.  I'm in the last group to come to this who've been Certified for more than five years.

As an administrator, I appreciate the need for periodic review.  As a professional, this is part that effort to look at what I do and how I do it, and to consider what I might do better, what new I might take up, what old I might put down.  It's another application of the work of performance improvement that I've written on at length.

At the same time, I'll allow that I feel some ambivalence about evaluating myself.  If we really can't be objective about ourselves (and between phenomenology and quantum mechanics, I'm pretty clear we can't be objective about much of anything, much less ourselves), how can we evaluate ourselves in any way that's accurate?  Isn't it clearer to have others work from their own impressions, instead of reacting to mine?

On the other hand, if I don't do some reflection and share it, how can I ask for the help that I want, or at least think I need?  Much learning is based on the learner's contract, the learner's idea about what it's important to learn.  How can other help me, if I haven't at least suggested what help I need?

So, in the midst of this I'm working on writing about what I do.  My Best Beloved, God bless her, asked, "Why don't you just write, 'I've been doing this a lot longer than most of you, I do it a lot better than most of you, and so let's just celebrate how well I do."  Well, I've written in other circumstances that I have no humble opinions (and so, for example, won't write "IMHO" when responding to others' blogs); but that seems entirely too much.  Even if I did believe it, it wouldn't really invite much in the way of conversation.  And, I have enough self doubt to not be sure that I do better than others, even if I have been at it longer.

Part of the issue, too, is the difficulty in setting the limits of what a chaplain does.  Some of those limits are clear; so, for example, I'm not a nurse, and I don't mess with medication lines and pumps.  I'm not a therapist or clinical social worker, so I don't use the diagnosis of "depressed" in my charting, except to acknowledge that diagnosis has been made by another (whether reported in a professional note or by the patient).

On the other hand, I spend more of my time in therapeutic (active) listening than almost anyone around me, but I know I'm not the only one.  I am more focused on patients' spiritual needs than others around me, but I know I'm not the only one.  As I often say in orientation, I know I'm not the only one in my hospital who prays for patients, and occasionally not the only one who prays with patients.

Some years ago the APC sponsored a pilot study on the activities of chaplains serving as one-person departments.  Among the eleven chaplains who participated the breadth of activities was extensive.  One slide continues to play in my mind.  Chaplains were reporting on their work, and dividing up how much of their time was spent providing direct care from time spent in administrative and "indirect care" activities.  At one extreme was a chaplain who spent 90% in direct care and 10% in administrative and other activities.  At the other was a chaplain who spent 10% in direct care and 90% in other activities.  When all eleven were compared side by side in bar graphs, the line from one to the other was virtually straight.  There was even a person in the middle whose time was split 50/50!

So, as I seek to describe what I do, I'm wrestling with how to ask for comment on how I do my work, when it may be more toward one extreme or the other without being at all off the spectrum.  I do a lot - I think.  I don't think what I do is unusual, but I'm clear that it's different from many others.

Well, anyway, that's where the time and energy has been.  Perhaps once it's over I'll have a better understanding.  Probably once it's over I'll have more to say; but those are not necessarily the same.


Green Acres in the City said...

What you do is extremely important and needed. Bless you my friend.

Marshall Scott said...

Thanks. I'll take all the blessings I can get.

onetorontoseminarian said...

As I approach having to write my evaluation for this CPE quarter, I'm glad to hear that even a professional chaplain struggles with this type of endeavor.
Thank you, again, for your encouragement and support of CPE students.

Marshall Scott said...

onetorontoseminarian, I hope that this has been a very successful summer for you. You'll be discovering stuff from this unit for a while yet.