Prompt 54

“Write from the point of view of a nurse who hates the patient she is charged with helping”

Rose had a routine. In fact, it was a perfect routine. She would come into work at the Redford Physical Rehabilitation Centre at precisely 7:50 in the morning, so that she could start her rounds at 8:00. She was a stickler for punctuality, particularly when it came to her being on time. It was vital for her to be on time to both start her day and end it.

Once she started her rounds, she made sure to spend at most fifteen minutes with each of the ten patients she was responsible for. That way they were each ready for their rehab sessions, and she could take her coffee break on the nose of 10:30.

This had worked flawlessly for the ten years she had worked there, and that was extremely satisfying for her. She loved seeing, as she left her last patient, the minute hand reach the 6 on her Hello Kitty watch. It had been a gift from her niece that had surprisingly lasted quite a few years.

This week, however, things had changed. One of her patients, the first on her roster, had been discharged. This was hardly new. In fact, she expected it to happen every three months or so. On the day following his departure, she went to meet her new patient, going into the room at 7:55, so as to give some time for introductions.

When she entered the room, it was still dark and she noticed that the patient was still fast asleep.

“Now this just won’t do,” she muttered to herself as she walked across the room towards the window. In one swift, practiced movement, she pulled open the curtains and let the morning light flood the room.

She looked over at her patient’s body, prone on the bed. It was a woman – Rose didn’t work with many women – and she looked like she was nearing her sixties, but had done quite a bit of work to not look it. Her face, impeccably made up despite being in bed, was framed by a perfectly coiffed, bright blonde head of hair. Her eyes were covered by a sleeping mask and her hands, poised delicately across her middle, were  manicured in a deep shade of red.

“Well, this one is going to be a piece of work. She better not expect to keep her nails like that once she starts her sessions,” Rose thought to herself.

“All right, m’dear,” she said out loud. “Rise and shine!” She clapped a couple of times, too, making as much noise as she could.

The lady stirred, clearly perturbed by the noise.

“What?” she said groggily. “What do you want?”

“It’s time to get up!” said Rose with as much cheer as she could muster, which wasn’t a lot. “In fact, you’re meant to be up before I come in at 8:00 a.m.

“Oh, go away,” she said, still not taking off her mask. “Come back later.”

“Can’t do that, dearie,” Rose said, taking a peek at her watch. 8:02 already. “I’ve got to do a quick blood pressure and temperature check, and then get you sitting up in time to talk to Doctor Jones.”

“Mmm,” was all the response she got.

“Right then,” she said and tugged off the sleeping mask.

“No! What are you doing?!” the woman whined.

“I told you, Mrs. Norris, it’s time to get up. Now, give me your arm so I can take your blood pressure.”

Mrs. Norris raised her arm, still not opening her eyes. Rose wrapped the cuff tightly around it, pumped it full of air, and looked at her watch once again. Counting the seconds as part of her task, she still unconsciously measured the time. 8:06. She needed to pick up the pace.

“Now, Mrs. Norris…”

“It’s Miss,” she interrupted.

Rose started and looked at her. She had finally opened her eyes and had them pointed accusingly towards the nurse.”

“Sorry, Miss Norris,” Rose started again, trying not to smirk. “I’m Nurse Rose, and I’ll be tending to you while you’re with us. That means I’ll be in every morning at 8:00 on the dot for a quick visit, and then I’ll be back in the afternoon, after your sessions, to do your bed bath and check your vitals again.”

“Well that just won’t do,” the woman said as Rose removed the cuff and reached for the thermometer. “I must have my bath in the morning.”

“Of course you do,” thought Rose.

“Well, that’s not how we do things here,” Rose said, glancing at the clock above the bed this time. 8:07. “It’s just a quick check-in in the morning, then breakfast, then off to your exercises.”

The patient stared at her blankly.

“And when do you do my hair?”

“Your hair, madam?”

“Well,  if you’re involved in my bath, I assume you’ll be coiffing my hair then too?”

Rose chuckled, bemused but also very irritated with the woman.

“I’m not your hairdresser, Miss Norris.”

“Well, then,” Miss Norris replied haughtily. “I’ll just have to get Julio in here on a weekly basis. He can set up in the corner there and…”

“Oh, no, madam,” said Rose, interrupting the woman’s vision. “We can’t have people bring in chemicals and such things into the facility, I’m afraid. Now, if you’ll just let me take your temperature, I need to get to my other patients.” It was almost 8:10.

“You’ve got to be joking,” she responded. “You’re telling me that my hair won’t see a professional for God knows how long and I’ve just got to sit here and let you take my temperature?! Absolutely not! I want to speak to whomever runs this place! Now!”

She had raised her torso and was propped up on her elbows, looking indignant.

“I bet you do,” said Rose under her breath. She took advantage to prop the pillows behind the woman’s back so she could sit up. At least now that was done. She just needed to pop the thermometer into her mouth and have her keep it there, the silly woman.

“I don’t joke, Miss Norris,” she said, tersely. It was 8:12 now. She had three minutes before she had to be out the door, and it would take 30 seconds at least to get the temperature reading.

“Now, open wide.”

“No,” said Miss Norris, crossing her arms across her chest. “Not until I can speak to someone with more authority.”

Now, that comment hit such a raw nerve with Rose that she completely forgot about the time and she stood imposingly above her patient, preparing to launch into a speech.

“Listen here, Miss Norris. I understand that this is a new experience for you and that it may feel a bit overwhelming, but I will not stand for this behaviour. In your life here, my role is to ensure that your basic bodily functions are cared for. I oversee your meals, I make sure you are clean on a daily basis, and I make sure you can empty your bowels in a discreet fashion. That’s all me. There is no one with more ‘authority’ in that regard. So, if you want your stay here to go well and you want to avoid any sort of unpleasant business, I suggest you open your plumped up, outraged little mouth and let me take your darned temperature, or else I will be forced to flip you over and use and entirely different – but equally effective – orifice.”

Miss Norris was stunned. Rose took advantage of her expression to place the thermometer into her gaping mouth, and patted the chin to close it. Miss Norris’ cheeks flushed as she stared furiously at Rose, but she did not dare to open her mouth or speak.

Rose was quite shocked as well. Never in her ten years working there had she had an outburst of the like. She was quite proud of its effect, however, and she patted herself on the back for it.

“Well, Rosie dear. That was quite something, wasn’t it? Who knew you had it in you?” she thought to herself. She was so involved in her self-congratulation that she almost forgot to take the thermometer back.

“36.5º,” she said out loud. “Wonderful.”

Before she could say more, she jumped as Doctor Jones walked in through the door behind her.

“So, how are we doing this morning?” he asked perfunctorily before he had even realized Rose was still in the room. “Rose! What are you doing here?”

Rose stared at him. How could he be here? Doctor Jones moved through his rounds consistently five minutes behind Rose, so that they could each do their thing in peace. They had never overlapped before. That must mean…No!

She looked down at the Hello Kitty watch only to see that somehow it was already 8:20.

“Oh!” she said, and ran past the doctor, through the door, and off to her next patient.

For the rest of the day, she played catch-up with those five minutes, trying to get back on track. But it was not to be. The rest of the day proceeded, five minutes behind every other day. It was as if she had scheduled her intervals so concisely, that they were now fixed and inflexible.

Each time she looked at her watch and was reminded of her constant delay, she felt a pang of hate towards the odious woman that had been introduced into her roster. She was stuck with her.

As she lay down in bed that night, five minutes past her usual bed time, she scowled at the ceiling.

“That’s it,” she thought. “If she’s still asleep when I come in tomorrow, I’ll stick the thermometer up her bum to wake her up.”

With that gratifying thought, she leaned over to turn off the lamp, crossed her hands over her chest, and went to sleep, tormented by the thought that she would get five minutes less sleep than usual.

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