Surrender – it’s a dirty word, a scary word, to someone like me who likes to be in control of every detail of my life, who finds security in planning and reassurance in things falling into place exactly as I’d envisaged.
So why do I work (and take great satisfaction) in the messy, totally unpredictable world of palliative care? Where no day ever turns out the way I planned and weeks regularly end in longer rather than shorter To Do Lists.
Take this month, for example: I’ve had to fit in urgent home visits to patients at 4pm on Fridays, leaving me finishing work late (again) far from our office base and even further from home; a new group cookery course we’ve spent much time preparing has been decimated by illness to only 2 or 3 attendees; waiting lists and caseload have expanded like a balloon; a colleague has handed in her notice and another is off sick so I have to cover some of their work too; random roadworks have sprung up across the county making me late on visits; simple referrals have turned out to be much more complex; and the only way to catch up on the subsequent notes and actions has been to miss other commitments.
And yet I glory in this work! Part if me loves the unpredictability of it all! I’ve told my current student, with a smile on my face, that no day turns out the way you expect it to in palliative care. How can there be such contrast in me?
Perhaps I’m better at surrender than I think. I do what I can in this job to bring some control back into their lives for my patients, to give them choices and enable them to achieve what’s important to them. Sometimes giving them control means giving up my own.
I have to put others’ priorities before my own (unless there is an issue with mental capacity or safeguarding), remembering that even if I am an expert, the job is to give patients the information about what is available to them so they can make a decision on whether they want it or not. It’s frustrating when I know that the help or equipment they decline would make life easier for them. But it’s more important to surrender my own need to control a situation, to offer my expertise as an open handed gift rather than forcing it on them, and to let them make the choices they still can.