The post-it reads ‘if we didn’t have gallows humor, we wouldn’t have any at all.’
This is very true. There is little to laugh at in health care. There is little to laugh at in witnessing suffering. Sometimes there is something that we can do to alleviate the suffering, oftentimes not.
You could say gallows humor is in response to life-threatening, disastrous, and terrifying situations. And the Merriam Webster did that as that is a direct quote from the dictionary.
In healthcare much of what is witnessed by us is life-threatening, disastrous, and terrifying. To the patients, and to us who are striving to ease all of those conditions for the patient.
Yes, we make inappropriate jokes, but I say it is in response to what we are witnessing. A bit of whistling past the graveyard to give ourselves courage in fighting what the patient is going through. We don’t have the privilege to act as if we are afraid or unable to fight the current battle.
And for pete’s sake, don’t let the patient see you sweat.
Or your coworkers. There is an art to keeping cool under fire.
A prime example of this is my response to a post on Facebook. This is a group of women who are not medical. Like, at all. And one made a post about how her husband was home from the hospital after undergoing a colectomy. At the end she made fun of the fact that he wanted to keep the removed colon. Why? Who knows. My response was that I tell people all the time that the lab has to have whatever is removed for testing. And that the weirdest thing that someone had wanted to keep was toes removed for gangrene. I wrote back that we could have a what is the weirdest thing ever sent/seen in the lab but I did not want to gross the group out. Some of the women got it, I am sure that some were icked out by the comment. Me? I thought the entire exchange was funny.