Where do I even start?
We’ve heard a number of our healthcare worker friends share these words the past few weeks. When asked “how are you doing?” it can be hard to come up with answers that make any sense.
Medical professionals face difficult circumstances and situations every day. While specifics can vary greatly based on specialty and type of practice, in general the healthcare profession sees some of the worst things the world has to offer. During “normal” workdays, those in the ERs, ICUs, and first responders will see more death in one day than most individuals do in a lifetime. They also come across trafficking victims, refugees escaping dictators, abuse victims, mental health concerns, etc. frequently. They are making cancer diagnosis and delivering bad news to families. These would be difficult conversations for any human on any given day. During a pandemic, healthcare workers will continue to see these things but in an increased volume while operating under more stressful circumstances.
Many healthcare professionals entered into their field of work precisely because of the situations above. They want to enter into that chaos and be a source of hope and help. But when they finish their schooling and find themselves in the throes of hard conversations day in and day out, many can turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Unhealthy coping paired with years of difficult situations often lead to burn out and jaded attitudes.
While this is a sad reality, it cannot and should not be where we stop. Believers that work in healthcare have a specific call on their life to still love others as if they were more important than themselves. (Philippians 2:3) They are called to show humility in their wisdom, not haughtiness or self-importance. (James 3:13-18).
It’s not possible to interact with such brokenness and live according to the descriptions above without healthy processing. Our faith allows us to grieve, lament, and hand over our concerns to the Lord. In addition to doing this alone with the Lord, our faith also calls us to live in biblical community and share our burdens with others who can point us to Christ.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2
Instead of stopping with “where do I even start”, lets commit to making that the beginning of an honest conversation with other Christ followers who can help us work through all that we’re seeing and experiencing.
Below are a list of questions that medical professionals can share with those that they are in biblical community to help with processing and accountability. If you are a dear friend or biblical community for a healthcare worker or first responder, don’t let them stall out with shallow answers. Help them be all the things God has called them to in their role.
Use the following as you see helpful in leading and serving one another.
Big Picture Questions to Ask:
In 20 years, how do you want to remember this season? What do you want to mark your life during the pandemic?
Imagine you are retelling this experience or on a future panel sharing your story. What lessons will you share from what you’ve experienced?
What led you into medicine? How has God prepared you for these days?
Weekly Questions for Checking in:
What has your bible intake looked like this week? What has the Lord been showing you in His word? NOTE: Don’t let busy-ness be an excuse! God's word is exactly what we need when we are terribly busy. As community, lean in if you hear constant busyness from your healthcare friend as an excuse as to why they’re not learning.
What difficult things did you see this week? Did you watch any patients in agony? Did you witness death? Can you share with us about that? How can we grieve that loss with you? NOTE: Many medical professionals face death on a daily basis. One way to cope is to completely compartmentalize and act as if that life is not a person. While we know this is not true, we also know it is not realistic for healthcare workers to completely break down between every patient. It is reasonable, however, for healthcare workers to find their own ways to grieve the death they see on a regular basis. Encourage your friend to find ways to memorialize the lives they interact with. Come up with creative ways to honor that person’s passing and not slip into thinking that they are just a body. That body was home to someone who bore the image of God. Consider creating the habit of a specific prayer they pray or something they journal. During a pandemic, many will see death in an abnormal way/rate, even outside the norm of their already difficult jobs. Now more than ever, help them to find healthy ways to process what they’re seeing. Compartmentalizing will lead towards bitterness, burn out, and being jaded in this profession.
What attributes of God are hardest to believe right now?
How have you rested on your days off? What are you doing for productive rest?
Have there been any emotions you’ve tried to avoid or suppress?
Where have you struggled with sin this week? Have you been tempted towards pride, frustration with others, or fear?
Do you need to resolve conflict or seek/offer forgiveness?
Have you been annoyed with someone this week? What about?
If we asked your coworkers how you're doing, what would they say? Would anything you’ve done stand out and look different?
How have you seen God at work? What details of His faithfulness should you record?
What do you wish we would ask you?
Are there any tangible needs you have this week that we can help meet? (groceries, something hard to find, childcare, etc)