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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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Holiday Night Shift

 
My hospital's Vice President for Nursing usually wore beautiful designer suits and stayed close to her office; but she was standing before me, in the ICU, dressed in a crisp, white uniform and nurse's cap. I wondered why she was on my unit at 1:00 a.m. after the holiday. No surprise, there was a staffing crisis, and she was politely begging nurses on six floors of units to work a little extra.
 
My shift ended, technically, at 11:30 p.m., but the charge nurse and I were just now getting around to reconciling the narcotics. The VP broke into the rhythm of our count, smiling, with
 
"Marilyn, I'd really appreciate it if you could stay over."
 
(I've already helped with the new admission. I should've been home an hour ago.)
 
"No, sorry, my husband's out of town, and I need to relieve the babysitter."
 
Her face hardened, "Well, why can't you ask her to stay longer? We need you here."
 
(She's fourteen, and her parents wanted her home by midnight.)
 
"No, sorry, I can't."
 
(Why don't you put on scrubs and join us?)
 
At that moment, I experienced a forceful letdown of breastmilk that was overdue for my infant's feeding as it leaked through my blue top.
 
(Oh, Lord, no!)
 
The VP seemed not to take notice, "Not even half a shift?"
 
My RN counterpart took one look at me, "Oh, honey, you've got to go."

Marilyn Barton
Hampton, Virginia