When I was green and just starting in this field, a resident informed me that youth was wasted on the young. At the time I dismissed it as just something that elderly people say. It took a while before I realized how wrong I was.
I did notice how little it took for my residents to be truly grateful. With short staffing and terrible patient ratios, it sometimes feels like all we hear are complaints. On the days where the routine on the floor is disrupted, it can feel impossible to please anyone, but that’s as a collective. Individually, their requests were perfectly reasonable.
On the floor, a request for a cup of coffee is trumped by a resident who is a fall risk’s urgent need to use the restroom. A request for an extra pillow will have to come after taking vitals. We are constantly prioritizing the needs that have to be met and something always falls by the wayside.
In such a setting, forgetting a cup of coffee seems a forgivable offense, but then again you would be hard pressed to get me going in the morning without my coffee. I had a freak out just the other day because I didn’t realize I had run out. Coffee is a vital part of my daily routine and my whole day is thrown off without it. Is a day without coffee a “forgivable offense” to me? Not so much. Furthermore, the sheer joy and gratitude I’ve seen a simple cup of coffee with two creams delivered in a timely manner bring a resident is downright humbling. I don’t even notice my coffee until I run out.
The ability to be fully in the moment is a gift that comes in the beginning and end of our days. It’s true that I have countless stories of residents who flew off the handle over some innocent mistake but I have just as many stories of residents who were deeply moved by moments that I take completely for granted. They don’t just drink their coffee on automatic pilot. They SAVOR it.
I waste so much time worrying and fretting over imaginary scenarios in my head. I have wished away shifts and boring dates. I have missed opportunities right in front of my face because I wasn’t paying attention; countless moments wasted. It is through working with those who have a lifetime of experience that I learned this.
What would they give to have the moments that I so carelessly wish away? To have the ability and freedom to come and go as they choose? I am still not great at being in the moment, but I am learning. It takes practice. Now every morning I make it a point to stop and savor my coffee. It’s a good start.