Paul C. Edwards

Hello all:-

I’ve always been thankful for the richness of these seminars and it’s always such a blessing to participate in the forums.

I’ve one more bit to add on the “leaving work at work bit”. I suppose I have to clarify. As the de facto “big cheese” of the department, (the Director was never replaced when she left about 12 years ago) and everything was thrown on me. I have over 20 volunteers (a mix of Roman Catholic Eucharistic Ministers and others); two weekends-only chaplains (so I can be off-call on weekends); a part-time secretary and priest-help from the Diocese. I am in charge of the schedules, the time-sheets, the budget. When I am not “physically there” and anything goes wrong or someone is unsure of something or cannot get a hold of someone (usually the priest), I get a call.

While I am able to leave the stories and the traumatic events where they need to be – in the hands of God, I struggle with the need for folks to track me down at dinner/on my days off (and I do plan these) for stuff that really belongs in someone else’s hands or something that is not an emergency and can certainly wait until I return.

Take this past Saturday, for example. My weekend coverage was on-call. I was not! They were having difficulty connecting with the priest. That’s a normal scenario, despite the fact that we have two options for priest coverage for the weekends. Instead of calling the on-call fellow, to see if he could meet the needs of this Catholic family/patient (if they were willing to have him come in) they interrupted my solitude and page me. I redirected them; told them to follow the schedule and protocol, then called my colleague and directed him to see if the Catholic family would have him come in, considering the lack of response from the priest coverage.

That’s what I mean by not being able to “leave work, at work”. No matter what I do. No matter how often I say it. No matter how well I plan, folks always seem to not realize that I need not to be there when I’m not there.

We now live in a world where folks want to have every possible means to contact you. Your home and cell phones; giving you the ability to remote-in to check e-mail, work-related social media accounts, etc. While I see some value in information-dissemination, etc., via those means, the issue of boundaries is a real thing for me. That’s what makes my situation so intense (in my mind, anyway).

So, apart from my pager, only the administrator I report to has other options to contact me when I am not in the facility, and I have limited that, for fear my “away-time” is intruded upon. Those are the boundaries I’ve set. Some folks are pleased I’ve chosen to do that, but……oh well!

I don’t know about your individual situations, but establishing good boundaries seem to be a good way to have the opportunity to recharge and stave off both compassion fatigue and burnout. Taking time away is not the issue for me. Leaving the stories behind, etc. is not the issue. Occasionally, I’ve simply turned the pager off so no one can reach me when I’m off, forcing them to follow the protocols in place. Of course I have had to take the heat for whatever didn’t happen because I was not there to fix it and someone lazily tried to reach me and could get  a hold of me!

Some weeks are good and others are not so good. My facility has a habit of being overly dramatic, cancelling vacations and doing the “Chicken Licken” thing when it’s unwarranted. With a serious event as this current COVID-19, one can only imagine what approach they’ll take. I’ve scheduled some time off and it’s already approved, but who knows?

Being the fiscally prudent folks that they are, we have no week-day (non-Catholic) coverage when I’m off. They will only pay for weekend non-Catholic coverage. They expect local clergy to meet the needs of their parishioners in those situations. Those without established connections are toast when I’m off on a weekday. My weekend coverage have other commitments during the week, but have said they wouldn’t mind filling in, but they would not be compensated for their time. That’s something of an ethical concern for me.

I’ll stop here. I’ve said more than enough. Now you know why I chose to take this course.