Gloria was a good nurse. Very efficient. Everyone said so. Today, her job as a Chicago public health nurse had her administering flu shots to the residents at the Longview Nursing Home, a large facility providing care primarily to the indigent. None of that fancy stuff here, she thought with some satisfaction. Squish, squeak. Squish, squeak. Her shoes kept a steady rhythm on the dull green linoleum as she marched purposefully down the long hallway.
Yesterday, she had inoculated almost a hundred patients! Probably a new record, she mused, certainly due to her excellent organization skills. She had insisted on an assembly line process and a rigid schedule, and as usual her commonsense procedures had proved successful. The only drag on her methodology was Dr. Swanson. He was supposedly (and here she gave a little smirk) “in charge”, but he was continuously clogging up the pipeline by talking to the patients, smiling, patting them on the shoulder. Why, it was no wonder she gave twice as many shots as he did! No matter. She was determined they would meet their quota for the day, even if it meant that she had to give three times as many shots as the doctor!
As she got closer to the double doors of the clinic, Gloria was pleased to see that the nursing home staff had followed her orders to have the residents lined up in their wheelchairs, ready and waiting. Many of them were sleeping. Good, she thought. Much faster that way.
“Good morning! Lovely day, isn’t it?” Dr. Swanson welcomed her as she bustled in.
“Yes, fine, thank you.” Wasting no time, she asked, “Shall we begin?” and was already signaling the orderly. The doctor turned to greet the old gentleman being wheeled in. After inquiring about the man’s general health, Doc listened patiently as a silly little joke was told in a halting manner by the old fellow.
From her side of the room, Gloria pushed up her patient’s sleeve, swiped the arm with alcohol and gave the injection.
“Oooo-ooooh!” the tiny old lady cried weakly, biting her lip to keep from making any more noise. Looking up at Gloria, her eyes pooled with tears. But Gloria’s attention was already fixed on the next patient being pushed forward, and she was poised to prepare the injection site. The first patient fumbled in her sweater pocket for a hanky. Her hand was shaking as she wiped her eyes and was rolled away.
The next patient, slack-mouthed but peaceful, was sleeping soundly until the shot pierced his thin skin. Then he jerked and the needle ripped right through. “Yee-ee-owww!” he screamed, as blood dripped down his arm and onto his pants. “What are you doing to me?” he asked, totally bewildered, looking all around.
Finished with his own patient, Dr. Swanson motioned for Gloria to swap stations with him, which she did with some relief. He managed to calm the agitated old man and bandage his arm. Paying them very little mind, Gloria soon had her momentum going again. Dr. Swanson maintained his relaxed and friendly manner throughout the day, treating roughly half as many patients as Gloria, but with much less crying and unhappiness on his side of the room.
Finally, all of the patients scheduled for shots that day had been served. Dr. Swanson was doing paperwork while Gloria organized supplies for the next day. She was humming a mindless little ditty, oblivious to anything other than the need to work quickly and efficiently so she could get out of this place and get home in time to watch the last few minutes of Oprah.
“Yes?” she answered, arranging boxes of alcohol wipes and bandaids.
“Gloria, did you get your own flu shot yet?” Dr. Swanson walked over.
“Mmm. No,” she murmured as she concentrated on arranging her supplies. “Not yet.”
“I thought not.” And without another word, he pushed up her sleeve, swiped her arm and jabbed the needle in vigorously.
“OW!” she screamed. Her mouth dropped open and she stared at him as if he were a strange green alien from the planet Injectus.
Dr. Swanson grinned cheerfully. “No need to thank me. You really needed to get that flu shot.”
Picking up his bag, he headed out the double doors. “See you tomorrow.”
Still speechless, Gloria drew her eyebrows together and brooded. Her arm was hurting. Ow! Did their arms hurt like this? Oh…... Ow……
An epiphany moment. A changed heart. A better nurse.
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