When you walk into the emergency room to see a trauma patient, do you remind yourself as you enter the doors, “Keep your game face on?”
When you finish a difficult surgery and make your way to the waiting area to review the prognosis with the family, do you tell yourself, “Take a deep breath. You can do this?”
When you steel yourself to tell one of your favorite patients some seriously bad news, do you silently whisper, “It’s going to be OK?”
Yeah. Me, too.
As much as we would all like to believe that what we go through every day could become rote, and that we have enough armor for any insult to our system, it just ain’t true. Not always. Not every day. No way.
That game face is important. It’s not a sign of weakness to pull it out when we need it. Honest.
Let me share with you what happens when other people don’t pull out their game face at the right time.
I recall a moment when someone’s lack of composure, lack of compassion, lack of a tiny bit of pretending was so flagrantly missing that it cut me to my core.
It happened on a wintry February evening 25 years ago. I was in my residency and was called to the emergency room to see a young man, Brad, who had been driving on an icy, curvy road. He was on his way to see his fianceé, Joni, who lived several states away. Her birthday was the next day.