Stay safe..

Dear Nurses

I am so proud of all of you.  You have applied yourself to everything that is new. You have patiently listened as we explain protocol after protocol, and then frustrated  you by changing it the next day. I am proud of how you showed care to my 99-year-old patient whose hair is perfectly coiffed and her makeup is ready for a BBC interview.

Like you I don’t know what day it is. I need to check a calendar to see if it’s a working day or a weekend. Not that it makes any difference to you, working shifts and three-day weekends every second weekend.

I try, and yet I fail to talk to you in the corridors and in the nurses stations and in your offices in management suite.  

I failed to act ten days ago when someone asked me to write something motivational for you. This is a time when failure is commonplace: the only solution is to acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. With this letter I hope to move on.

We are facing a global crisis in our little hospital that has always served our community to the best of our ability. It seems sometimes that nothing we do is enough for our patients, our hospital, the whole world. But we have not failed!

The sense of failure, the fear of not being in control, the quarantine, the concern for our families causes us all to feel anxiety.

Feeling anxious about things in today’s world is completely normal. Although I am no master, I’d like to share with you how I have learnt to deal with my anxiety over the years and what works for me now:

We need to deal with it. Learn from our failures. Consolidate and move in a new direction with calm and strength and compassion. I believe we all, and especially you, have this ability.

In our medical training and our experience at the workplace over the years we have all faced stressful moments: a patient’s death, a complication, a disagreement with a colleague. Think back to those times. Now empower yourself by reminding yourself that you dealt with those crises before, and you have the tools to deal with this crisis. You have achieved so much, and will continue to achieve.

Over the last decade I have been blessed to meet many wise and caring people who have helped me deal with fear and anxiety. The essence of their help for me can be distilled into three words: 

Remember to breathe (even if it is behind a suffocating mask).

Breathing is the essence of life, and we can control it. In the beginning just acknowledging your breath is enough. Start to feel the place where your inbreath gently fades into your outbreath. Feel your diaphragm move. If you want you can pause, and count to four at the end of each breath.

It is as simple as that. Now you have something you can control. In controlling that you can reduce your fear and anxiety. 

I salute you all. For once the world is recognising your calling.  They are appreciating your service for the greater good of humanity. They understand your sacrifice. 

Stay safe.

Ask for help if you need it.

Best wishes

Basil

Sunrise over the Indian Ocean …

Conversations about Choices

“It’s your choice,” my father would often say. Usually the issues at hand were important, and although there was freedom of choice, it was accompanied by responsibility for the outcome.

So he never asked why. He just left the choice to us. There were times I made choices that he did not approve of, and had to bear the responsibility. There were times I made choices that in his opinion were based on youthful fervour, and he accepted because they seemed the right choice.

Life is made of choices. I choose to wake up early and meditate now. I wish I had a done that all my life; my breathing is that important. I choose to write every morning. Some days I am inspired and the words flow, other days I struggle with concepts.Some mornings I choose to make time to go for a walk or run near the sea. When I am out there I choose to feel the luckiest person alive; waves crashing next to me and the sun rising, sometimes high, sometimes peeping through layers of cloud; occasionally dolphins playing in the blue.

I would not say that I freely choose to go to work. But somehow I am aware of my responsibility and the outcome born. The responsibility to my patients and the outcome born on a sense of achievement. I choose to listen to stories and poems as I drive, and not the news and the popular radio shows that fill the emptiness of the car with nothing. Somehow I am aware of what happens in the world, and most times it is so negative I can imagine the world choosing that path without having to hear about it. But I choose to feel the pulse of goodness beneath my feet as I walk and breathe.

I choose to breathe at work. That is sometimes my only choice, to focus on my inner strengths and be able to make all the choices required for a good outcome. After all, medicine is just that. Decisions affect outcomes, and those outcomes are a measure of our success. I choose to use mental checklists to improve my outcomes. I breathe slowly and deeply when faced with cognitive dysfunction. Slowly I realise how we are all affected by problems and sometimes stop thinking clearly. I work very hard at making the right choice, not for me but for my patients. At work I choose to do everything once, and to do it well. I choose to do it today. I choose to use a diary, not just to book patients but to record messages and attend to planning and protocol.

In the evening I choose to end my day by writing in a notebook. I record the day, my ideas and these four items every day: two of my successes, two things  for which I am grateful, two answers I have received and actions I have taken regarding my dreams, and what my purpose for the day has been.

Choices are like doors...

Choice is such a simple word.