06 August 2010

Friday Flashback - Things which will blow your Wa

Wa is very important to me. From my limited understanding, "wa" is a concept in Japanese culture referring to an internal sense of harmony and well-being. I shelter, protect and cultivate my wa religiously. It is what gets me through difficult shifts without going mad.

So yesterday, I arrived home from a birthday party with the kids, still in my swimsuit and wet from the pool. Tired and utterly relaxed, I had a beer out from the fridge and on the counter with the bottle opener in my hand.

The Phone Rings.

"Hi, Doctor. It's Jennifer in the ER. Are you coming in to work this evening? We were expecting you at 6:30."
"I don't think I am working today."
"We have you as the 6:30 doc on the schedule. Did you make a trade?"
"Um, no. Let me check my schedule and get back to you."

My Outlook calendar has me quite clearly as OFF today, but the master ER schedule does show me as working. Crap! How did that happen?

I ultimately got to work only an hour late (only!) and that was only by virtue of a very quick change of clothes and some serious extralegal driving. Fortunately, my partner whose shift had been scheduled to end at 6:30 was gracious in accepting my humble apologies.

But my wa was completely and utterly blown.

Predictably, the shift wound up being like crap. Nothing worked. I never got my flow, the rhythm, the groove. Nobody had an obvious diagnosis. Hospitalists were all rightly skeptical at half-baked admissions. Pissed-off patients wound up walking out dissatisfied. I kept losing track of patients (Room four? I thought they were discharged an hour ago!) and orders somehow kept appearing on the charts for the wrong patients (thank god for alert nurses who repeatedly saved my ass). And all attributable to the fact that I arrived late, flustered, and not in the right frame of mind for the shift. Man, I'm no good at all without my wa.

Sigh. And I am working again at 6:30 tonight.

Originally Posted 3 July 2007


  1. Well, I can utterly relate to this! This sort of thing has happened to me a number of times, particularly when doing shift work. Circadian rhythm completely out of wack - or was it "wa"? Nothing strikes terror in the heart as this kind of situation: lolly-gagging in the bed, a lazy day of recupe marked in a bright red on your block schedule (the @ home version, of course!). Will do the laundry later on tonight, give the house a swipe and a kiss to keep things neat, a nice supper tonight for yourself and your family. . .ah yes. . .wonderful thoughts of not being rushed and having no place to actually be today other than home with your honey. Suddenly, the phone rings, louder than usual it seems, jerking you out of your blissful reverie. On the other end is your nurse manager with a genuine tone of concern in her voice wondering if you're OK or if you're lying unconscious in a pool of blood somewhere. If not, then where the hell are you because the place is jumpin' here!? Then the Indy 500 of getting to the hospital and your unit in nothing less than STAT is set into motion! The next 12 hours consist of you drag-assing around with everything that could go wrong doing so in domino fashion. All because you circled the wrong day on your calendar. Mind is not functioning since it's still in day-off mode, body follows suit. My "wa" has become more of a "wa-wa"! Brother, you have a kindred spirit here.

  2. Wow! I'm a neonatal intensive care nurse and I'm very familiar with this idea too. I just didn't know it had a name.

    It doesn't matter whether it's a flat tire, a fender bender, or just me oversleeping an alarm. When I do get to work, I will either take a trip to the morgue, change an ostomy bag six times in twelve hours, or put a kid on ECMO. Just never fails.

    Now at least I have a cool name to toss out there when it does happen.

  3. This is the kind of day I refer to as a clusterfuck.

    I hate those days, but they eventually end like every other which helps me keep it in perspective!

  4. Gosh, I have been called like that before too, and it totally throws your whole day off! I didn't know there was a name for it :)


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