As a childbirth educator with an eighteen-month old son at home, I enjoyed getting to know the staff on the maternity floor. While visting there one busy afternoon, the head nurse,Susan, asked why I did not come help them out on occasion. Stating my home schedule conflicting with an orientation schedule, I was happily surprised by the head nurse's offer to speak with administration about a "creative scheduling orientation" for me. I jumped at the offer. I was committed to staying home with our little boy, but I missed clinical nursing too!
Several weeks later, I began my 5pm to midnight schedule. I took classes, online tutorials, shadowed the head nurse, RN's and LPN's and gathered my competence in postpartum nursing along the way. I enjoyed the staff and the patients. Learning at the bedside what I was teaching in my classes was indeed beneficial and lent authenticiy to my childbirth classes. I worked whenever they called. My hours ranged from a shift to a few hours, whatever they needed and my home schedule would allow. My family saw how much I enjoyed my work and would send me off with a "have fun" as I got into my car. The head nurse and I became good friends as she generously explained what years of experience had taught her. I think she enjoyed my enthusiasm and sense of humor as we went about our duties.
One day we had made the comment that the bathroom door in a certain patient room had a tendency to stick, and that we needed to get maintenance to work on it. The schedule was busy, we were helping patients and forgot about that door. A certain new mother was a patient in this room. She had a little boy who seemed to have more energy and curiosity than our maternity floor could contain. Just keeping this toddler in the mom's room was a challenge. We wanted to have good humor about the situation, but frankly, our attitude was becoming a little grim with the tike. I mean, we were not babysitters, we really were busy taking care of patients.
The patient light went on for her room and I was at the nurses' station to respond. Telling her I was on my way, I flicked the call switch off and went to check on her. The IV line was kinked, and after a little maneuvering, it was fixed. Her little toddler, Bobby, had been running around but now all was quiet.
Suddenly from the closed bathroom door came little knocks. I tried to open the door and it would not budge! Keeping my voice as calm as my head nurse does, I tried to reassure the little boy that I was getting the door unstuck. Bobby's knocks turned into yells. I put the call light on and asked the unit secretary to ask the head nurse come to the room. Thankfully, she was good about coming quickly when I called and this night was no exception.
Coming into the room, she quickly and quietly sized up the situation. I will never forget that impassive expression on her face. The epitome of professionalism in my mind! I silently wondered if I would ever be able to master that facial expression that was so reassuring to patients - and refresher clinical nurses alike. The toddler was twisting the doorknob and hollering, the mother was getting a little panicky, and my eyes were glued to the face of the head nurse as she reviewed her options.
On the night shift, maintenance department has a skeletal crew. Susan put on the call light and asked the unit secretary to call maintenance to come up to our room. While we waited, we talked to Bobby who continued to yell and twist the knob convinced that this would set him free. While we knew he was all right, we realized for Bobby and his mother, this was alarming so we worked very hard to quietly talk until maintenance arrived.
About ten minutes later, the maintenance man opened the door and an energetic Bobby shot out of that bathroom. Susan and I left the room and walked straight to the nurses' station into the backroom where we doubled over in held-in laughter. That crazy door and my hand on the knob realizing I could not get it opened. The unspoken communication between Susan and me as we waited. The held in emotion. We laughed until we cried and to this day when we retell this story between ourselves, we laugh all over again. This is also a story about a great friendship and trust between two nurses committed to doing a good job but enjoying life along the way. I'm so grateful for knowing such a wonderful nurse as Susan.
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