As a family physician, the act of listening and holding a patient’s story is a vital part of healing for both the patient and the healer. The telling of a story gives the storyteller the ability to shape his/her experience and to gain some control over the events. The generous listening and receiving of the story heals both the storyteller and the doctor/healer. In this collection, Dr. Zink explores the burden, mystery and privilege of doctoring. She shares stories gathered during her twenty plus years of practice in a variety of venues–while caring for patients in a domestic violence shelter, on the Navajo reservation, during a high-risk volunteer stint in Nazran, Ingushetia (Russia), on mission trips in Latin America and in her clinic in rural Minnesota.
Confessions of a Sin Eater lays bare the human heart of the author and reveals the best and worst of our journeys as humans. She examines the burdens of bearing witness and the challenge of seeing the impact of the darkest act–where one human intentionally harms someone they love. She explores the limits of her treatments and medications for healing, the uncertainties of her craft, the reality that some of her actions cause pain and that her mistakes can harm and ultimately kill her patients. Unbeknownst to her patients, she recognizes the unexpected gifts they have given her. She reflects on her own woundedness and how ministering to the wounds of her patients has in turn healed her. Reflection is important to avoid burn out and makes better physicians.
Discussion questions are included.