Six weeks ago I would barely recognise my life now. Six weeks ago, I worked 9-5 in a comfortable office for reasonable pay. Now I work twice as hard for just over half the take-home. I am now a hospital shift worker and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done.
The hospital unit I where I work assesses emergency patients. After assessment, patients are then transferred to an appropriate ward. Patient flow is fast and unpredictable. Work is mentally and emotionally demanding.
Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, office work was easy; after all, missing apostrophes didn’t really matter. No-one died.
Each day tired and concerned family members are generally patient and concerned for sick loved ones. Occasionally families take out their anxiety on the staff. A far cry from consultants calling to complain their hotel didn’t have appropriate parking or a window in their bathroom.
In a rare moment of calm this afternoon I watched an elderly lady sleeping unaware of the commotion of the busy unit. A visitor sat by the patient’s bed, holding her hand. The patient’s visitor caught the attention of a passing nurse and they stood talking next to the reception desk. I caught snippets of conversation. The patient and the visitor were sisters. The nurse gently told the visitor that her sister was nearing the end of her life. The visitor hid her mouth behind her hands and she cried, still listening to the nurse as she suggested the visitor told her sister anything important before she left. The visitor went back into the side room with her sister, sat by the bed and took up her sisters’ hand.
I thought about my mortality and my relationship with my sister.
The phone continued to ring and patients continued to come into the unit from A&E. The sisters still held hands. I finished my shift and cycled home with the image of the sisters in my mind.