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Pager Snafu

When I woke at 6:00 a.m., I was amazed the night had come and gone.  I had prayed for a calm and quiet night, and had received just that.  Sitting in bed for a moment, I checked the pager (that I'd clipped to the T-shirt I was wearing) and the cell phone for any missed pages/messages, and there were none. Then I gave thanks and read Morning Prayer before dressing to go downstairs.

I tried to get back to MedSTAR before G, the overnight clerk, left so I could say we should work together more often.  But he'd already gotten away.  Greeting S, the daytime clerk, I sought to confirm the quietness of the overnight shift. S said, "No, it wasn't quiet at all."  Alarmed, I responded I'd received no pages or calls. 

Heading back to the Spiritual Care office, I called the On-Call pager to test it.  No page.  Not good.  I confirmed it was on and that there was still a good charge to it.  In the office, I reviewed the On-Call procedures and tried testing the pager again.  No page. Hmmm.  Very weird.  The PA system in the On-Call suites is not so loud as to rest someone from a deep sleep.  I was tired, I slept, and I was glad for it.

As I flipped the pager around in my hand, I noticed the label on the backside with a phone number different from the On-Call pager.  Calling that number, sure enough, it worked.  I scanned the bulletin board to determine whose pager I was holding, and who might have been wondering why they were getting pages throughout the night and morning.  Still, I would have expected someone to call the On-Call cell if that were the case.  But no calls either.  (In fact, the only call I had during my rotation was from a nursing station requesting a chaplain to visit and pray with a cancer patient.) 

Calling the home of the pager owner, she answered and I explained the situation.  She grabbed the pager she had, and then I heard "Oh my goodness.  Oh my goodness." as she saw pages I should have received.  She had not heard the pages because it had been silenced (on vibrate).  Okay.  Mystery solved.  There was a switch of pagers between the staff chaplains covering day-time On-Call. 

After advising the Chaplain Resident relieving me, the chaplain I relieved the evening before, and notifying my Supervisor following chapel, I returned to MedSTAR to retrieve labels for the patients I had missed.  As I charted each case, I prayed silently for each person, not knowing their circumstances, injuries and present status.  I felt helpless and a bit out of sorts that Spiritual Care had not been represented to those patients, their family or friends, and to the doctors, nurses and staff of MedSTAR.  But I knew God had been, and continued to be, in the midst of all that, even if I wasn't.  So care was given and received, even in my absence.

I know that it is not me working in all this.  It is God.  As a chaplain, I merely represent to others on God's behalf.  I am to be a tangible, physical presence that someone who prays to the Almighty and Everlasting God who lives is there for others in their time of trouble, danger and despair.  But I was sad I hadn't thought to go down to MedSTAR sooner.  Maybe I could have found the error earlier. 

In hindsight, I cannot imagine this has not happened before.  I expect it could happen again.  But it will not be on my watch.  I will check numbers beforehand so as to be fully present and available when I am On-Call.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2011 07:08 am (UTC)
This is a fantastic view of the situation, I don’t think I’ve quite seen it from that perspective before.
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