A Seismic Shift

Posted on November 14, 2015 under Storytelling with one comment

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I have always been fascinated by hospitals.  They were not places that I generally frequented over the years until recently, when I decided to start my fourth career in the field of mental health.  The word “retirement” doesn’t sit well with me.  Retirement generally signifies the end of a productive work life.   However, like many boomers, I see work as just one, long continuum with a change of direction every now and then.

Television has glamorized hospitals and like many people my age, I’ve seen episodes of Dr. Kildare, General Hospital, ER and Gray’s Anatomy.  Invariably, some young attractive doctor is the protagonist with co-workers taking turns duelling and drooling.  Add a dash of romance and a splash of rancor and you’ve got a ratings winner on your hands.  If it were only so.

My father in law, Dr. John, epitomized the profession of a bygone era.  He took the time to really get to know his patients and he was a brilliant diagnostician.  The former probably had a lot to do with the latter.  He had a profound respect for nurses.  And far from feeling terribly self important, he was humble and had a good sense of humour.  He could handle good natured ribbing from the nursing staff.   And they took advantage of that whenever the opportunity presented itself.  There was the famous incident when a noted prankster removed the camel from the nativity scene in the hospital rotunda and planted it in his office.  This caused quite a stir amongst the Sisters who, with a little help, caught him red handed.

I have known some wonderful nurses over the years, having undergone several knee operations.  I remember coming out of surgery at the old Civic Hospital in Halifax and experiencing a great deal of pain.  The nurses there were uncommonly kind.  On the day of the surgery, my X-ring went missing from my night table.  The post surgical pain was so bad that I asked them to reopen the incision in my knee.  I thought they might have left the ring in my knee when they marked the X on my kneecap for the procedure!

Back in the day I worked in a sawmill and also a commercial bakery so I have had some experience with shift work.  But throughout most of my work career, I have been in occupations where sticking to a rigid schedule wasn’t my modus operandi.  So, it came as a bit of a shock to the system to find myself punching in once again.  This was a fairly profound change to my routine and a welcome one.  It’s good to be busy and learning a new job among friends.

These days I spend quite a few hours a week at the hospital, working mostly with nurses.  These women and men are, in my humble estimation, the mortar that keeps the whole thing together.  They work 12 hour shifts and most of the time, they are going flat out.  They are professional, patient and occasionally profane.  Yes, I have come to discover that a quick wit is rather important if you’re going to spend your days tending to the sick.

I worked my first 12 hour shift ever a short while ago. What an eye opener.  And that was only one shift. The nurses work several in a row … some days and some nights.  The time off in between gives them just enough time to get their mental clocks straightened out before diving back in again.  It is not a lifestyle for the faint of heart, despite the glamour depicted on T.V.

Nurses deserve our utmost respect … because they don’t just show up at prime time.


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