Five chapters to study for a ten-item test. Two 3-pound books to carry along with a black rectangular bag, complete with paper and plastic receptacles, several kinds of forceps and scissors neatly wrapped in plain bond paper, properly labelled, and autoclaved. A clear plastic envelope with the plain white apron neatly folded along with a binder full of photocopied Powerpoint slides and Word reviewers formatted in bullets. Hundreds of bullets. Sometimes, a black shoulder bag for the pencil case, the make-up kit, black umbrella, wallet, and cellphone. That’s only Wednesdays to Fridays. And, twice a month, a laptop bag. At 6:45 am, gathered together for the Morning Circle, the girls wear a sleek all-white uniform, with hair neatly tied up in a bun, put in place with a handful of Michael’s gel. The guys, in a fit all-white terno, clean-shaven, with hair bushed up or parted neatly also put in place probably with that Bench Fix wax. As prayers are recited altogether, all look at the leader, one distinct feature can be seen in all the students – eyebags, black under eyes.
One body system for 6 hours. Five hundred questions to answer and to rationalize for ten hours. Mnemonics to chant until midnight. Pigging out on Happy Peanuts non-stop, sipping hot instant noodles when the clock strikes twelve, and pure black coffee every four hours for survival – for four months. After two days of carefully shading the perceived right answers, one distinct feature can be seen in all the board exam takers as they come out of the testing centers – eyebags, black under eyes.
Vital signs monitoring every 30 minutes with special consideration on the pulse pressure. Capillary blood glucose taking before meals. Insulin injection and feeding right after. Oral medications every four hours. Fluid replacement and output monitoring. Running towards the patient calling. Giving Epi shots during cardiac arrests. “I’ll call the IM, you call the Surgery. Page the orderly.” As one life is taken and the shift finally ends, one distinct feature can be seen in them – eyebags, black under eyes.
The eyebags, the black under eyes are only shallow evidences. Nurses. They give a piece of their heart to each patient; stubborn or not, difficult or easy, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, gay or lesbian. They exert effort, time, energy. Well, those are essential, anyway. But nurses offer empathy without you asking for it. Emotions, willing ears, gentle touches, simple pats on the back, and sincere smiles; you get them all for free.
To all my colleagues, Happy Nurses’ Week!
And to all of my friends and readers who are not nurses, in lieu of the said celebration and the smoldering climate, I will be giving free sponge baths. That is, if you have really nice veins that I can stab!