One good thing about working twelve-hour night shifts in a Southern California hospital is driving against traffic for the commute. Californians don’t measure commutes in miles, but by how long it takes them to get there. Everyone knows to stay off the freeways, and take surface streets.
I pull into the hospital staff parking lot ten minutes before starting time, unwrap my stethoscope from around the rear-view mirror, and grab my sack lunch from the passenger seat. Then I sprint to the PICU for change of shift report.
Unconsciously, my nose wrinkles when I see on the assignment board I’m taking report from Kris. She’s nearing fifty, and thinks this gives her the right to treat me like I’m still a student, but I see through her. Her aging makes my youth threatening. Blonde hair, overly tanned skin; she’s so thin I’m sure she has an eating disorder. Last year she had a boob job, and when she returned from medical leave she pulled every one of us into an empty patient room for show and tell. She’s currently dating the bass player of a struggling rock band that practices in her garage. Kris doesn’t have relationships with men, or girlfriends for that matter, only superficial encounters of varying lengths; it’s a frequent source of gossip among the nurses in our unit. However, she’s been a nurse almost thirty years. She’s worked ER, OR, and adult ICU. Even I have to admit she’s nursing muscle.
I brighten when I see I’m working with Liz tonight, and she’s charge nurse. Every bit as skilled a nurse as Kris, she’s a completely different type of person. She doesn’t hold my inexperience against me. Instead, she sees me as an opportunity to develop a coworker she can depend on. She understands I’m looking for the chance to sharpen my skills. Liz doesn’t wear any make up, and laughs too loud, but she is the rock star nurse in this pediatric intensive care unit. The doctors ask her opinion of their patients’ progress before they write their orders.
It’s going to be a good shift. I start every shift thinking it will be good. That’s how new I am to nursing.