Copyright 2014 by Stephen W. Hines
. . . . Naturally, Sarah had been persecuted for coming from the wrong side of the tracks. High school had been a nightmare for her. So she had redoubled her scholastic efforts and decided on a career in nursing because it was a truly noble profession where one could serve others–and show creeps and snobs like her schoolmates what real deserving virtue and humility were. Sarah wanted to do good but be tough.
Of course, she never made less than an A in any of her courses in high school or college. She joined many organizations to prove that she was a joiner and did much church volunteer work to show that she was a volunteer. She made all of her own clothes and became an excellent gardener to supplement her meager diet with fresh vegetables. Sometimes she even gave her folks left-over produce. She even learned how to raise chickens in the attic so the family could enjoy fresh meat and eggs.
And her privations had not been in vain. They had won her a full-paid scholarship to State University.
All she had to do to keep her scholarship was to work from eight to five in the food center; then knock-off for half-an-hour before doing light, miscellaneous research from 5:30 to 10 pm; then knock-off until midnight, when she went to work as a guard in a potato factory.
Yes, all the years of privation and starvation had paid off. She had won her coveted cap and degree–with honors–and now stood before the green baize doors of St. Luther’s Hospital, wondering, wondering what she would find waiting for her behind them.
* * *
Sarah got up from the bed and stretched a bit. What had she been looking for? What had she been looking for at St. Luther’s Hospital when she had first come to work several months ago?
She sat back down on the bed and let her mind wander, which it readily did when she was thinking.
Yes, there had been adjustments to make, but she had been ready and eager to make them. She knew what to expect from the real world of nursing; her high school and college study had prepared her for that. Also, she had wet her own bed as a child and knew what that was all about. Little could shock her.
Still, there had been some surprises.
For one thing, St. Luther’s Hospital had been so large, larger than even she had been led to expect by her own expectations. It had been impossible to get acquainted with very many people. Everything was so efficient and functional–and understaffed.
Sarah’s thoughts now flew to the one who had become her best friend. What a support she had been! From the very first day she had been taken under wing and shown what ropes there were to show by Darla Dunn. Sarah couldn’t imagine how she would have survived without Darla. The two nurses had had an impressive melange of experiences.
There had been that confrontation with head nurse Borden, who had ordered Sarah to give enemas to everyone in intensive care. That had been the first time that she had stood up for what she thought was a preferable course of treatment: laxatives.
There had been the hospital itself to learn, with its multiple floors, dead ends, and corridors leading to who knows where (and the morgue of the living dead, but maybe her imagination was getting away from her). And where were the restrooms? It had all been so confusing.
Especially upsetting had been the strain of meeting all of those people! There was the peculiar fellow in Room 405 who kept proposing to her, and the funny old woman in 406 who kept tearing her bed sheets up and setting them on fire.
Then there were the doctors. They were the most perplexing lot of all. Some were curt and dismissed you with a slap on the head, while others were just as nice as a starving used car dealer trying to sell you a 1957 Cadillac. Many of them seemed preoccupied with their specialties and somehow out of touch with reality. Doctor Adams in particular seemed a zombie until someone would mention yachting. Then it was yawl this and yawl that. You’d have thought he was from Alabama.
Most troubling of all had been her intense but confusing relationship with Dr. Ransom Chutney, Chief of Intestinal Surgery. She remembered well (or was about to remember well) her first meeting with him. It had been, in fact, during her first day of her clinical life. . . .
Darla Dunn had set off at a break-neck pace, and they had covered floor after floor and mile after mile, stopping to greet a myriad of faces. There had been nurses Pursley and Hanon, Drs. Wheately, Morris, and Joeblownowski. She had been told that she would work in each section of the hospital for a week to familiarize herself with procedures before being turned loose on patients. She would work a week in surgery, a week in pediatrics, a week in dianetics, and a week in splenetics. She would also work a week in the kitchen and the laundry. Not stone would be left unturned in her training.
For instance, there was this Borden woman.
When Darla first took Sarah to meet the head nurse, they found her sandpapering a hypodermic. She seemed perturbed at being interrupted. Darla had put on her cheeriest smile and made the introductions.
“Nurse pig . . . I. . . mean . . . nurse Borden, I would like you to meet our new nurse, Sarah Samuels. Sarah, this is Elsie Borden. She is the head of nursing here. We couldn’t . . . uh . . . get along with out her.”
Sarah looked at nurse Borden uncomfortably. In fact, she noticed the head nurse had taken out a magnifying glass and was looking at her through it.
“I think I see a bit of smut on your uniform, Miss Samuels. What have you been doing? Playing in the mud? We must do better than that around here. Ours is a life-and-death struggle against disease and despair. A person who brings dust into the hospital will, the next thing you know, be spreading staph to the patients. Staff spreading staph! Ha! Do you get it? See that you are always clean, neatly attired, and wearing white, regulation shoes. No sneakers here! Now, where is it you’re supposed to be stationed after we teach you something? Speak, child! Cat got your tongue?”
“I’ll be in p-pediatrics, sir. I just . . . I love children and–”
[To be continued.]