I’m currently riding the high of two very successful days of work. Every May the Professional Development Center and Simulation Technology Center at UCSD put on an event involving more people, more logistics, more stakes, more observers, more STRESS than any other event. For context, here is a bit of background info on the PDC and my role:
As a part of the Medical Education department at UCSD, we simulate various doctor-patient encounters. The purpose: to instill the practice of clear communication and empathy in the soon-to-be doctors of the world. The center contains 18 clinic rooms complete with an exam bed and those fun things they use to look in your ears. During an event these rooms are assigned a trained actor portraying the medical case of a patient. Sometimes they are a patient who simply needs an annual physical. Sometimes they are the receiver of bad news.
One of my favorite scenarios is a husband-wife duo. The husband, reserved and seamingly unconcerned by his ailing health is the patient. The wife, however, is doing all the talking. The particular challenge presented to the 2nd year student is: How do I get the wife to shut up and the husband to step up…without shutting anyone down or stepping on any toes.
My homebase is the control room. A small space with a microphone, a few computers and a few BIG screens lining the walls. These screens display a bunch of smaller screens. These smaller screens are live video captured in each clinic room. During events I am the stage manager. I tell the actors, the observers and the actors where to be and when. Monitoring the scope of all the hallways and rooms from a single place.
My goal is to keep the event running as seamlessly as possible and on time. I do this, in part, by making announcements into the rooms. Prompting students to move on to the next step and reminding them when 5 minutes remain in their encounter. One student, upon stumbling across the control room, said it was like seeing behind the curtain in Wizard of Oz. Another said it was like realizing Big Brother IS real. And one student, seeing me at the microphone, asked: Are you the voice of God?
The mission of the PDC is to allow students to make mistakes, challenge themselves and round out their medical education. Supplementing my on-paper responsibilites is my personal intention to create a safe and calm environment for learning.
Back to the event of the past two days:
Typically we hold events for Medical Students. Seperately, we coordinate events for Pharmacy students. Occassionally we administer encounters for visiting nurses. For this 2-day marathon we put all three together. The intended goal: Interprofessional Development. The added pressure: Defending, each year, funding for the grant that allows an Interprofessional exercise of this magnitude.
The energy during those 2 days is manic. Frenetic and loud. A boiling pot tempted to explode. That must run, absolutely, on time. Not late and not even early.
So as the official timekeeper and point-of-contact for every question/concern under the sun, I must be assertive and louder than the rushing current of people. And also a source of calm. A safe place.
Recently I experienced a lull in feeling capable of this job. Where I once experienced the surge of adrenaline, I felt encapacitated by anxiety. I was standing obstantely in my own way.
As the event approached I prepped and planned and meditated and stuffed my pockets with empowering affirmations. And folks, it’s 2:30pm and the event has officially wrapped and I…well, I fucking kicked ass. In a way that was recognized by other people. Which is great! But I felt it imperative, post-chaos, to take a walk and intentionally recognize what just happened and my significant part in all of it.
During the walk I recorded this free-flowing poem. (Side note- I’ve bemoaned time and again how walking seems to free up the space for me to be creative…but walking while writing can be dangerous. Finally I’ve arrived in the 21st century, realizing my iphone has a voice recorder. Sheesh kabobs!)
I felt like sharing this poem and recording. Because after listening to it I felt like I’d created a great (albeit long) mantra for myself. One I plan to read after a success. To embrace it and provide closure.
I hope you hear it and feel encouraged to create something of this essence for yourself. In the mean time, if mine resonated with you, feel free to use it. I’ve been told by a medical student or two that I have quite a soothing voice.
Note: The link below is of the recording. I uploaded it via GoogleDrive because…well, it’s the only way I knew how to share it! Additionally, the poem is written out below.
Thank you for reading