My life never seems to run smoothly and this time was no different. We were short staffed. There were only three fully trained nursing sisters to supervise staff and run the ward; just enough to cover all the shifts if we worked solo. Thrown in at the deep end I was transitioning from Indian to Chief with no supervision.
The nurse’s station was at the top of the stairs and the wards were entered through a nearby door into the main public ward where there were thirteen beds around a central point. The private rooms were down a passage beyond that. I was not used to just having the supervisory role and I was still doing some of the nurse’s work on the most critical patients as well.
We will call him Jack. Jack was an elderly man who had a leg amputated above the knee. He had not been given a prosthesis or crutches as it was thought that his balance and strength were not good enough to handle them and he would be likely to fall and injure himself. He spent every day just sitting quietly on a chair at the foot of his bed.
On this particular evening the main ward was full with men recovering from surgery. We were beyond our usual capacity, frantically busy and there were extra beds and patients everywhere.
My help was needed with a man who had been run over by a bulldozer and as I passed Jack I could see that he was getting restless. I asked him not to go to bed by himself. All the nurses were busy, I would be back later.
On my return through the ward I found Jack sitting up in his bed! I was horrified! He could have fallen. I said, “Jack, I told you not to go to bed alone!” He smiled mischievously and said “Sister, I could see that you were busy and I didn’t think you were ready to come to bed yet!” Twelve men roared with laughter. With a red face I bolted through the nearest door to the Nurses Station. Curses! This was the wrong direction. Mustering all my dignity I had to go back through the ward again! They were still laughing and Jack was a hero.
I still say the wrong things at times. It doesn’t bother me now. I just smile and get on with life.