No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (Niki gets a speeding ticket)

Chapter 9

After charting on the fourteen-year-old boy with the AVM, I left the PICU to the well wishes of my coworkers: “Get some sleep, Niki. Good job.”

As usual, I leave through the Emergency Department exit, glancing around before remembering that it’s after eight-thirty; Corey went home over an hour ago, and I stood him up for breakfast. He probably heard what happened in PICU from radiology. It’s not that large of a hospital.

The sun is almost blinding this time of morning. After wrapping my stethoscope around the rearview mirror, I search the glove compartment until I find my sunglasses, and put them on. Pulling out of the hospital’s parking lot, I head for home on surface streets. During prime time morning traffic they are congested, requiring my concentration.

While driving home, I relive the shift in my head, wondering if the boy will survive (he doesn’t), and if I’d missed any signs during the night, which may have gotten him help sooner. Lost in thought, I suddenly realize I’m driving in front of an elementary school as I careen a crosswalk at 35 miles an hour. On the curb stands a crossing guard wearing a neon green vest with several school-age children huddled around her.

“Oh shit,” I hiss at myself.

In the rearview mirror I see the flashing lights of a motorcycle officer pulling away from the curb after me. I signal, and pull over. From the mirror, I watch him note my license number, and call something in over his radio. He’s already writing the ticket as he approaches. By the time he gets to the passenger door, I have the window down, and am apologizing profusely. He asks for my driver’s license.

“Officer, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see the crosswalk. I forgot what time it is.”

“Ma’am, you were going thirty-five in a school zone. You just missed taking out a group of children and a crossing guard.”

“I realize that sir. I’m really sorry. I just got off work and I’m really tired. I know that’s no excuse. I’m really, really sorry.”

He contemplates what I just said, and takes a look into my car. I see him take note of my green scrubs, and notice the stethoscope hanging on the rearview mirror.

“Do you work at the hospital a few blocks from here?”

“Yes sir.”

“Are you a nurse?”

“Yes sir.”

“Dammit!” he says. Do you work night shift? Are you getting off late?”

“Yes. We had a bad last few hours.”

“Dammit!” he repeats. “I don’t ticket doctors or nurses. It’s bad Karma. For all I know, I may be a trauma patient in your hospital one day, but I already started writing the ticket. I can’t make it go away once I start writing a ticket.” He looked genuinely worried.

“Ticketing me won’t affect your Karma, Officer. Really. I deserve the ticket. I almost hit a group of kids. I was lucky this time. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I need to be more careful.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Give me the ticket.”

“Alright, well. I’m checking the box that says it’s okay for you to go to traffic school though. That way, it won’t affect your insurance premiums.”

“Thank you, Officer.”

He handed me the ticket.

I rolled up the window, and slowly drove away. When I was out of his sight, I pulled into a large commercial parking lot, locked the doors, and cried.

I didn’t go to traffic school. I wrote a check and paid the ticket.

A Good Shift (Niki introduces two coworkers)

Chapter 2

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.