Exercising the craft—May 12, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Write a scene between a nurse and a patient. Why is the patient in the hospital? Is the nurse kind and nurturing, or hurried and no-nonsense? How does the patient feel before, during and after the exchange? How will this moment affect (or not affect) the nurse and patient?


Emma lay back in the bed, staring out the window. She felt the baby move again and smiled. As hard as it had been to drop everything for doctor-ordered bed rest, at least it was working.

A ping sounded from her phone, and Emma reached for it. Facebook. Someone wished someone else “Happy Nurses Day!” and added several smileys and other emoticons.

Hmm, Nurses Day. Maybe I can wish the nurses here on the floor.

She surfed to the hospital’s website and logged into the private patient portal. After a few clicks she found the list of pager numbers for the nurses on the maternity floor. Emma began copying and pasting numbers into a mass text message and added a few cell phone numbers from her contact list.

“Happy Nurses Day!” she typed. “Thank you all for taking such good care of me and the other new mothers on the floor. We really appreciate everything you do and couldn’t get through this without all of you. Have a great day!”

She put the phone down on the rolling table and reached for some water. Within minutes her phone began vibrating. She reached for it and smiled at the “thank yous” rolling in.

The phone shuddered again, and Emma swiped the screen.

From Barbara. Oh boy.

“Emma, please don’t include me in mass texts. Thanks. Barbara Miller.”

Wha—I can’t believe this.

“Sorry about that, Barbara,” Emma typed, her thumbs moving slowly over the screen. “Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Nurses Day. Hope you have a good one.”

She reached for the remote control, but before she could start looking for something to distract her from her mild irritation the phone signaled yet again.

“Yes, I got that, but group texts should only go to people who know each other and would want to be included. A person’s pager number shouldn’t be shared without their permission. And personal greetings should be reserved for family and close friends.”

Emma bristled.

What is her problem?? Seriously, she can’t just accept this for what it is?

Just then another nurse entered the room.

“Hi, sweetie,” she said, approaching Emma’s bed. “Just wanted to check in on you. I saw your heart rate go up just a little bit and wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Emma tapped the bed with the finger encased by the small monitor and felt the wire tug somewhere under her blanket. She considered how to answer the implied question.

“It’s nothing,” she finally said. “Just got an annoying text.”

“Are we going to have to confiscate that thing?” the nurse asked, smiling. “By the way, thank you so much for that sweet message. It’s so nice when our patients let us know how they feel about us.”

“Sure,” Emma scoffed, “that’s why Barbara gave me a lecture on sending it to her.”

Suddenly she felt her skin on the back of her neck prickle. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. She realized that Barbara might be this nurse’s friend.

But the nurse just kept smiling. “Yup, sounds like Barbara. She’s a little…anti happiness.”

Emma fought a smile of her own. “Anti happiness?”

“Yeah, something like that,” the nurse said, pulling up the blanket that didn’t need readjusting. “We don’t know the whole story, but she just seems really jaded about stuff.”

“I’ll say. I mean, okay, she doesn’t like mass texts, I get it. I’ve never sent her one before, but you better believe I won’t send her one again.”

The nurse shrugged with one shoulder. “Like I said, no one really knows the deal. When she started working here, she was already kind of like that. And then last year when she went through her divorce…well, it kind of made everything worse.”

Emma inhaled deeply and let out the breath a little at a time. She watched the nurse pick up the odd wrapper and a plastic spoon and toss them in the trash. She wasn’t naïve. Emma knew the nurses had personal lives—children and spouses and hobbies and houses. What must have hurt Barbara so deeply that she couldn’t even enjoy an appreciative comment for the work she did every day?

“Well, looks like you’re okay,” the nurse said. “I’ll stop by later to help you with your sponge bath.”

Emma thanked the nurse for coming in and turned back to the window. She thought about the personal challenge that had brought her to the hospital and knew deep in her heart that even if her water broke six weeks early, the baby would come out fine and healthy and they would get to go home to a loving, caring environment. Barbara apparently didn’t have that luxury, and Emma offered up a small prayer of gratitude for her own life.

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