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Two Hours of Bliss

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

African American woman getting a massage

One day I went to work ready to start a night shift. I was prepared to take on any challenge, and I was ready to provide excellent care.

I enjoy interacting with my patients, and I anticipated receiving plenty of pages from nurses on the medical floors and from physicians in the emergency room.

I carried on with my evening, and it seemed a bit quiet. I even completed paperwork, but I wasn’t getting many pages – or I should say that I didn’t get any pages at all. It was two hours into my night shift when an overhead page went through: “Dr. Johnson, please call the operator!”

I finally got a page – even if it was an overhead page. I quickly picked up the phone and dialed zero. When the operator answered she let me know that several people were trying to contact me. Nine pages were sent, but I didn’t hear any pages.

They didn’t get through. I checked my pager, and the battery indicator showed a low reading.

This was the first time I had worked the first two hours of my shift without a page. When I thought about what happened I realized that, in relative terms, I had experienced two hours of bliss.

Thankfully no emergencies had occurred, and no one needed me urgently. I replaced the battery in my pager, and a flood gate of pages opened or at least it seemed that way. A busy night does make the time roll by faster, right?

Two hours without a page made me think about the down time that we all need. We all need a break; we need the opportunity to get some rest and rejuvenation. I once heard someone say that it is helpful to get a five-minute break for each hour that you work. I don’t know if there is much research behind the five-minute thing, but I know that getting a break is important. In those two hours I wasn’t in a spa. I wasn’t tanning on the beach, and I wasn’t experiencing a relaxing cruise. But I did have the luxury of some quiet time.

We all need quiet time – some relaxation

It’s often said that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. If you are broken down you won’t respond as effectively as if you were refreshed. Many of us have important tasks to perform in our lives; we have deadlines to meet and people to pick up from one place and drive them to another.

But if you are not present in a renewed and rejuvenated sense to perform these responsibilities, you may not be handling these tasks in the best way you can.  You will be more present on the job and more available for loved ones when your personal needs are also addressed.

I once heard an author say that you should spend 5% of your salary on self-improvement. This could consist of going to a workshop, getting a gym membership or hiring a life coach, for example. Of course, the money that you spend will depend on your financial situation, but I like the concept of taking time to care for yourself.

It’s not always easy to think of yourself though. Once during my residency training I was so busy taking care of patients and handling the critical issues at hand that I forgot it was my birthday – my birthday!

I realized this when I got a call from our department secretary wishing me a Happy Birthday. That moment made me think. Could life get so busy and could I get so wrapped up in something that I would, in the moment, forget about the day that I opened my eyes to a fresh, new world?

Another time during my residency I was up at 3 o’clock in the morning taking care of a patient. It came to my attention that I was spending plenty of time with other people’s mothers and fathers. I better make sure that I also spend time with my own family. I needed to make sure that I was taking care of my own needs as well.

In high school I learned that we all have basic human needs. We have a need for food, water and shelter. We have a need to feel that we are part of something. We have a need to be loved. I know that when I go out and spend time with my family and friends, it feels therapeutic.

As dedicated healthcare workers we all need a break as well. What do you do to bring bliss into your life?

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