Wednesday, June 15, 2011
THE END OF SHIFT REPORT
The Recovery Room
A prolog in which we meet our dramatis personae
If you leave University Hospital by the back door, which is down a dark hallway never used by the public, and then cross the alleyway, you reach The Recovery Room. Now, if it had been adjacent to a golf course it would have been called The 19th Hole. If it had been downtown among the financial district, it would have been The Office. Out in the burbs it would be The Alibi. But next to a hospital it could only be The Recovery Room. Inside the hospital, the area next to the OR is no longer called the recovery room, but the PACU, which stands for Post Anesthesia Care Unit. They still call the Operating Rooms the OR.
The Recovery Room is frequented by many people of many walks of life, and is often patronized by various employees and resident physicians of the hospital, but almost never by the Attending Physicians. The Recovery Room is perhaps not sufficiently upscale enough for the Attendings. In the full light of day it looks pretty shabby, but into the evening when the sun gets lower and the tinted lights come on, it doesn’t look so bad. Some of the Administrative personnel from the hospital come here at times, but only when their numbers are sufficient to give them the security of their herd. In ones and twos they get the nervous feeling of herbivores in the presence of carnivores.
Tonight there are a group of OR nurses, technicians and nurse anesthetists gathering in The Recovery Room, after they give their end of shift reports to the nurses, techs and anesthetists relieving them. The occasion is a farewell to one of the nurses who is leaving for a job in a sunnier climate. The departing one is Carl, a nurse of unusual background, a figure looked up to by the OR staff and many of the surgeons as well. He is less well liked by the managers and administrators, who, while they might not be happy that Carl is leaving, share a certain sense of relief that he is going.
Carl is unusual as a nurse for a number of reasons. First of all he is male. Secondly, he is somewhat older than his peers. He is in fact a second career nurse, not that unusual these days, as there are more than a few. What is unusual is in the area of his first career, not that he ever talks about it much and then only with his fellow Vietnam veterans. This perhaps explains his dislike for those who are paid to ride desks, go to meetings, come in late, have long lunches and go home early; administrators if you give them a name. Carl calls them REMFs. The R and E stand for Rear Echelon, the M and F we will leave to your imagination. Karen, another OR nurse and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, is one of the very few he has swapped war stories with.
Also there is Tim: OR technician and one of the only other men on the OR staff. Tim, he of the million dollar idea, is also a second careerist, having been a carpenter prior to working in the OR. Anne is the looker, the one who induces sudden attention deficit disorder in men on the street, with the resulting collisions with parking meters and other sidewalk obstructions. There is a spirit like a samurai sword, combining great strength and flexibility with the ability to cut to the core, sheathed in Anne. Nancy is the young widow, single parent, and the nurse who knows how to count. She is also the leader of the Transplant Team. Carol is a Nurse Anesthetist, former OR and ICU nurse, talented story teller, and the pacemaker of the open-heart team.
To round out the ensemble, there is Molly, longest surviving nurse in the OR, a teacher or sensei to nearly all who have followed her, and as an exception to people of her age bracket, an expert at the digital world, having bought her first computer in 1979, an apple clone. Lately, she has taken to building her own PCs, being unsatisfied with the offerings of the market place. To be the Yin to Molly’s Yang, there is Caitlyn, our story’s neophyte. Caitlyn, who prefers to be called Cate in reaction to her parent’s trendiness in naming her, says “At least they didn’t name me Brittany, Ashley or Courtney”.
So, let the first round be served, your humble narrator urges you to sit back, and let the stories begin.