My hospital’s Vice President for Nursing usually wore beautiful designer suits and stayed in her office, but she was standing before me, in the ICU, dressed in a crisp white uniform and nurse’s cap. I wondered why she was on my unit at 1 AM following the July 4th holiday. No surprise, there was a staffing crisis, and she was politely begging nurses on six floors of units to work a little extra.
My shift technically ended at 11:30 PM, but the charge nurse and I were just now reconciling narcotics. The VP broke into the rhythm of our count, smiling, with:
“Marilyn, I’d really appreciate it if you could stay over.”
(I’ve already helped with a new admission. I should have been home an hour ago.)
“No, sorry, my husband’s out of town, and I need to relieve the babysitter.”
Her face hardened, “Well, why can’t you ask her to stay longer? We need you here.”
(She’s 14, and her parents wanted her home by midnight).
“No, sorry, I can’t.”
(Why don’t you put on some scrubs and join us?)
At that moment, I experienced a forceful letdown of the breast milk that was overdue for my infant’s feeding as it leaked through my blue top.
(Oh, Lord, no!)
The VP seemed not to take notice, “Not even for half a shift?”
My RN counterpart took one look at me, “Oh, honey, you’ve got to go.”