Night float

One of the floor managers at our hospital is a gem. Peg, as we'll call her, always has a snack handy for the students, and a bit of gossip to go with it. She's seen it all, and still brings vitality and style to what she does. What's more, she speaks with a piercing clarity and earnestness, like a 1950's commercial voiceover.

Late one night while on call for surgery, I was sitting in the charting area writing a post-op note. Several other nurses and doctors were around, working quietly. At the floor manager's central desk, a buzzer went off, indicating a call from a floor patient. Peg flipped the microphone on.

"Hello?" she asked, in her crisp, clear voice.
From the patient's room, the only sound that could be heard was the percolating chest-tube apparatus.

Peg waited a few moments, cocked her head and announced, "Oh, it's Mr. Bubbles!" as she off turned the call light.

I smiled to myself and resumed my note. A few minutes later, the silence was interrupted when the same patient buzzed in again.

"Hello?" Peg asked, with a preternatural cheeriness.
Again, the sound of percolating bubbles. Then, finally, a man's harried voice came on and exclaimed: "Is leaking! Is leaking!"

Everyone in the charting area looked up from their work, and wondered: Was the patient's chest tube leaking? What was going on?

Peg paused for a moment and reflected. She turned to a colleague and remarked, "I do believe he called me Sweet Pea."

I started giggling, and a few others joined in. One of my residents let out a big belly laugh, and everyone just lost it. I hadn't laughed so hard in a long time. Someone got up to check on the patient, while the rest of us slowly calmed down and got back to work.

For so much of my time in third year, I've felt this constant background anxiety and uncertainty. For that moment in the charting room, the confusion and fear came face to face with Peg's self-assured, maternal simplicity. Peg won, and there was much rejoicing. Certainly, some late-night giddiness contributed, too. It's one of my favorite moments from surgery.