(Continuation of How I Became A Writer}
There were many patients on our unit who had cancer. Day in and day out, I watched them endure radical surgeries and exhaustive treatments.
But all the treatments directed toward an unlikely cure were only subtracting any quality living the patients might have.
I could not change the course of treatment, but I determined to bring as much comfort as I could. Mr. Webb (name changed to protect privacy) had terminal advanced cancer. He had only a few requests.
One of them was to have the blanket his mother had made him many years ago. I dispatched a family member to bring it.
The next shift I worked, I discovered Meg, (name changed for privacy) my nurse manager, had taken it from him and was sending it back home. I was stunned. What could possibly justify taking an item of comfort from a dying man?
Meg explained the blanket was not the hospital grade flame retardant material. It could not be run through the hospital laundry in the same way as our sterile sheets.
And she had many other arguments that led to one conclusion. There was no way for a patient to die in a hospital except in a sterile environment. Mr. Webb did just that.
It was hard to hold the pen to write because I was shaking. It was hard to see what I wrote because the paper was covered with tears.
But it was clear enough when the article was published in what was the nursing journal with the largest readership in the country at that time.
Mr. Webb’s battle was over. Mine was just beginning. There were few words from my manager other than I was to see the Chief Nurse.
The Chief Nurse told me matter of factly I was being transferred off my unit at the request of the manager. (Looking back when I became a supervisor, I could see why. I am not sure I could have put up with a rebel nurse like me as long as she did.)
The Chief Nurse asked me what I thought was a solution that would satisfy all concerned. I was not sure then.
I told her between tears about patients radiated until they practically glowed in the dark, patients pumped full of chemicals with more tubes added every day as they wasted away on their sterile sheets before they died. I told her it was just wrong.
She cringed when I said, “Maybe they did not die of cancer. Maybe they died from the treatment of cancer.”
She listened that day, but then told me to collect my things and move to my new unit that afternoon. The transfer was effective immediately.
Sue, my new nurse manager, (name changed for privacy) knew what she was getting. She was ready. She laid out her expectations quietly, but firmly. It included anytime I got the urge to write about work, she wanted me to share it with her.
I now believed in the power of the pen to effect change. Sue was put in my life to show me it takes more than “shouting at the rain” to bring about change.
Each time I had the urge to pick up my pen, I talked to Sue. No matter how far fetched
my ideas were, she listened. And each time, she ended by saying, “Now what’s your suggestions for putting that into action?”
Sometimes I was stumped right there. It’s easy to demand change and let someone else work out the messy details of implementation.
Sometimes she asked me to review with her how such a change would affect others. I usually had not thought about that.
Then she asked me how I planned to communicate the change. Another detail I had not considered.
I did not realize it then, but Sue was steadily working on turning the most vocal rabble rouser into a manager. She saw something in me both Meg and I had missed. I had passion, but it needed to be focused the right way.
I wrote no new protest articles when I worked for Sue. I became her acting Nurse Manager. When she was off duty, I was in charge. And yes, life did look quite differently from the other side of the desk.
Then it happened … a sudden, unexpected change that would affect my life radically for the next 20 years and lead to writing again, this time on an international level.
The Chief Nurse summoned me again.
Stay tuned for the next leg of my writing journey!