Each and every day, physicians and nurses must face so many horrible things. Surely, they must become numb to it all. How could they not? Coping with those stress levels and traumatic experiences seems almost impossible to do without removing themselves emotionally.
On the other hand, grieving and paying silent respect to those they could not save is something incredibly significant. Humans bond through shared pain, shared experiences.
Unfortunately, they are trained to remain professionally distant, and often aren’t formally taught to deal with loss. That is, until Jonathan Bartels, a nurse working in emergency care, was inspired to do something about it.
While working with his team at the University of Virginia Medical Center, one of his patient’s died when they were unable to resuscitate them.
“We had worked on this patient for hours, and the chaplain came in and kind of stopped everyone from leaving the room,” Bartels recalls. “She said, ‘I’m just going to pray over this patient and then you all can leave,’ ” he says. “And I watched it and I felt — it was the act of stopping people that really inspired me.”
Instead of allowing those attempting to save lives to become desensitized or numb to their emotions, Bartels began a movement called The Pause. It’s the idea of taking a moment of silence — a 45-second to two-minute ceremony — following a death in the hospital.
“I noted that when people die after a traumatic instance, a code, often I would see surgeons and docs and nurses walk away with frustration, throw their gloves off in a defeatist attitude, not recognizing that the patient was a human being we worked on saving,” explained Bartels. “So after these deaths I decided it would be a good thing to stop and pause and do a moment of silence. Just stopping. Honoring them in your own way, in silence.”
The Pause has now become part of the curriculum at the university’s nursing school.
Life is so very fragile, and the pain of not being able to save the lives they’re trying to help can easily become a painful scar that never really goes away. The simple act of stopping to acknowledge that person’s life unites everyone in the room, even if just for a moment.
You can listen to the full story from NPR below.