Authors: Janet Lane-Walters
Jenessa checked her med list and removed several plastic intravenous pouches from the refrigerator. The phone rang.
“ICU, Mrs. Robertson.”
“What can I do for you?” Dr. Carter asked.
“We need an ICU bed. Can either of your patients be transferred?”
As he answered, she bit her lower lip. “Are you sure?”
“There’s not much can be done for him. It’s a matter of time.”
“I’ll write the order. Don’t forget to counter-sign tomorrow.”
She hung up and pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes. As soon as she knew which unit, she’d have to move Tommy and lose control of his care. The nurses on the Med/Surg floors seldom had time for the extensive exercises of the hours of individual care. She would fail Tommy in a different way than she’d failed Chuck, but the results would be the same.
Before the transfer, she had meds to give. She saw to the other patients and moved to Tommy’s cubicle. The respirator alarm sounded. “Mrs. Sikes, page the house doctor stat.”
The respiratory therapist arrived. Pam pushed the code cart into the room. Jenessa pumped the blood pressure cuff. Her eyes focused on the reading.
“Sixty over forty.” Where was the house doctor? She strode to the door. “Is the house doctor on the way?”
“I didn’t call,” Mrs. Sikes said. “Tommy’s to go to Three South. Admitting wants the bed.”
“In the middle of a code?” Jenessa hit the emergency button on the wall outside the cubicle and dashed inside. “I’ll do the meds.” She studied the erratic heart rhythm on the monitor, opened the med drawer and removed several boxes of pre-mixed solutions. Then she added dopamine to an IV bag in anticipation of an order for something to raise Tommy’s blood pressure.
The house doctor entered, heard report and snapped orders. Jenessa hung the drip and slapped syringe after syringe into the doctor’s hand. Slowly, the pattern on the monitor changed from erratic to a more regular rhythm. Jenessa’s taut muscles uncoiled.
The house doctor grinned. “One for our side. Maintain the drip until his pressure stabilizes at say, 110/70.”
Pam pushed the cart from the room. “I’ll restock. Now I owe you ninety-nine.”
Jenessa completed her check. Then she strode to the desk. “Mrs. Sikes, place a call to Dr. Carter.”
The unit clerk leaned her elbows on the desk. “You can’t stop the transfer. I told Admitting the bed would be ready in ten minutes. Transport’s on the way.”
“Call Dr. Carter.”
“You’re not the boss.”
Jenessa reached for the phone. “Why didn’t you call the house doctor?”
“I was busy with Admitting.” Mrs. Sikes glared. “Take Tommy Greene to 314 now.”
“He’s not going anywhere.” Jenessa dialed Dr. Carter’s number. She quickly explained what had happened. “Thanks. I’ll write the order.” She opened Tommy’s chart. “Let Admitting know and find out who has someone ready to be moved.”
Instead of reaching for the phone, Mrs. Sikes headed to the nurse manager’s office. “You’ll be sorry. Bev’s been waiting for you to pull something like this.”
Moments later, Sandra Wallace and Bev arrived at the desk. Sandra slammed her bulging briefcase on the counter. “Mrs. Robertson, do you have a hearing problem?”
“No.” Jenessa watched the briefcase tilt, spilling papers across the counter and onto the floor. She picked up a packet held together by a large clip. “How interesting. A copy of the contract the Board never received.”
“Give me that.” Sandra snatched the papers. “What’s behind your refusal to follow a doctor’s orders to transfer a patient?”
Jenessa looked past Sandra. Eric was leaning against the corner of the desk. She hoped he wouldn’t intervene. This was her fight.
“The patient coded. I’m sure Mrs. Sikes failed to say she refused to call the code.”
The ice in the dark-haired woman’s eyes made Jenessa shiver. “You manufactured the incident to keep him here. Everyone knows how attached you are to the boy.”
Jenessa thrust the code notes at Sandra. “Read these if you can. Sometimes I wonder if you are a nurse.”
“I graduated first in my class from Sutcliffe.”
“Figures.” Jenessa made a face. “Isn’t that the school where a person can become a nurse without ever seeing a patient?”
“I resent your attitude. Sutcliffe produces nurses eminently suited for administration.”
Jenessa rose. “But inept in emergencies, not to mention saving patient’s lives.”
“You won’t have that pleasure here much longer.” Sandra clutched her briefcase.
“Is that a threat?”
“A promise, Mrs. Robertson, a promise.” She tucked the briefcase under her arm and stormed away.
Jenessa moved to the unit clerk’s desk. “You’d better see who can be moved. In the future, cooperation might save time and energy.”
“Just who…” Mrs. Sikes nasal voice trailed away. “Mr. Bradshaw, what can I do for you?”
“Call Admitting and explain the delay. Check with the other nurses to find who can be moved.”
Jenessa left the station. Eric followed her into the utility room. “Document this incident.”
“I intend to.”
“Include Sandra’s threats, as well. Send me copies of every incident report you’re written involving Mrs. Sikes.”
“Will do.” Her shoulders slumped. “I’m so tired of fighting incompetents and deliberate obstructive acts.”
Eric put his arms around her. She absorbed the comfort he offered.
“These kind of things happen everywhere.”
“They don’t have to. Why can’t people think about why they’re here?” She pressed her forehead against his shoulder. The cotton lab coat felt cool against her skin. After inhaling a deep breath laced with his aroma, she stepped back. “Thanks.”
“Are you all right?”
She nodded. “He coded, but we pulled him through.” She took two suction kits from the shelf. “That woman is a menace.”
“Who? Mrs. Sikes, Bev, Sandra?”
“All of them.”
He grinned. “We got a bonus today. Now I can research Sandra’s background. Are we still on for Friday?”
“What’s for dinner?”
“A surprise.” He reached for the door. “Just what else is your committee planning?”
“You’ll know by Friday evening.” She slipped past him. “See you.”
As she hurried to Tommy’s cubicle, she basked in the warmth of Eric’s support. Would the unity between them last? She was afraid to believe.
She approached her patient. “We won again.”
“Jenessa, a word with you now.”
Jenessa turned toward the door where the nurse manager stood. “Just what’s on your mind?”
“If you had moved the patient as soon as you received the order, we wouldn’t have a problem now.”
“He coded within five minutes of the order.”
“That’s not the way I heard the story. Mrs. Sikes said you passed meds first.”
“And that took five minutes. They were prepared and due, so yes, I gave them. Transport hadn’t arrived.” She smiled. “He would have coded in the elevator. Wouldn’t that have been a spectacle for visitors?”
Bev crossed her arms. “You can be replaced.”
“Right. By the hundreds of nurses lined outside your door begging for a job here. Spare me. They don’t exist.”
“There’s always X-tra Hands.”
“And how often have they been used here?” Jenessa brushed past Bev. “If you don’t mind, I have patients to see. Why don’t you ask your aunt why she refused to call the code? We were lucky this time. The patient survived.”
* * *
“You’ll know by Friday evening.” Jenessa’s answer and her mischievous grin remained in Eric’s thoughts. His birthday was Sunday, but Sam was the only person in Eastlake who knew. Somehow, he didn’t think Jenessa had planned a surprise party.
In the Nursing Office, he stopped to field several questions. As he headed to his office, he passed Sandra’s open door and resisted the temptation to explore. Later, he thought.
He closed his office door and called information for the Sutcliffe College number. “The School of Nursing, please.” A secretary answered, and to his surprise, the call was passed along to the dean for the special Master’s program.
“Mr. Bradshaw, how can I help you?”
“I’m the Director of Nursing at Eastlake Community and I’m calling for information on one of your former students. If you would like, I’ll give you the hospital’s number and my extension and you can call back after you locate the records for Sandra Wallace.”
“No need, Mr. Bradshaw. I remember Sandra very well. She left our program and took a marvelous position with a private health care corporation. Don’t tell me she’s looking to leave. Everything we’ve heard shows her success with MASCHCO.”
“How interesting,” Eric said. “Perhaps you had more than one Ms. Wallace.”
“No, but we have had more than one Sandra. Perhaps your applicant went to school under her maiden name and has since then been married.”
“You could be right. I’ll check with her and get back to you.”
“Do that. We’re always pleased to hear about our graduates’ successes.” She laughed. “If you’re hiring administrative staff, we’ve several excellent candidates at present.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Eric tapped his pen against the desk. So Sandra had worked for a health care corporation. Was it the same one that had tried to purchase the hospital? A visit to their offices might give him some answers. He flipped the pages on his desk calendar. The next two weeks were filled with meetings. He didn’t think he could wait, so he needed to see which ones could be re-scheduled.
He pulled his notebook from his jacket pocket and added what he’d learned to his notes. Then he jotted down other facts he needed to discover.
On Friday, he’d share what he’d learned with Jenessa. They would have dinner, do some research and maybe find time for a bit of pleasure.
He closed his eyes and thought of the evening she’d cried in his arms. His body responded to the memories and erotic images filled his mind. The phone rang. He answered and grabbed his lab coat before heading to Pediatrics to calm an irate mother.
At six, he returned to his office and locked the door. After checking the main room to make sure the supervisors were still at dinner or on rounds, he walked back to Sandra’s office and unlocked the door.
Her desk was empty except for a desk calendar. The file cabinets were locked. He tried his keys with no success. What I need is a set of lock picks. He chuckled. While he needed to know what was going on, he’d like to remain within the law.
He leafed through her calendar and found the same meetings he was scheduled to attend. A cryptic note about a meeting on Friday gave him no clues. On the last page were a series of phone numbers without identifying names. He jotted them in his notebook. When he had a chance, he’d call the numbers.
Finding nothing more, he headed home. There, he’d call his brother and see if Tim could discover the names of MASCHCO’s major stockholders.
* * *
As Jenessa cleaned the bathroom Friday morning, she thought about the confrontation with Sandra, and Bev’s attempt to bully her. The nurse manager had mentioned X-Tra hands. That name had come up in so many conversations,
Jenessa decided to explore.
A short time later, she stood on Main Street and read the sign on the door between the Card Shoppe and the Hot Doggery. X-tra Hands. Second floor. The courthouse clock chimed ten times. While polishing her cover story, she opened the door and walked upstairs. She reached to top of the stairs and entered the room at the end of the hall.
A young woman seated behind a wide desk in the small reception area dropped her fashion magazine. “Can I help you?”
“I’ve heard about you from some of my friends at the hospital and I’d like to know more about what you offer.”
The young woman reached into the desk. “Here’s a prospectus and an application. You can’t go wrong signing on with us. Everyone who does seems to like working for the company. How much time could you give us?”
“Maybe a day or two a week.”
The blonde smiled. “You’ve come at a good time. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to be needing a lot of extra hands.” She giggled. “Do you want to make an appointment with our recruiter?”
“A lot of our applicants like to complete the process in one day. I could probably fit you in. The recruiter is in a meeting with a client, but she’s free the rest of the day. How did you hear about the agency?”
“I’m in the Master’s program at Grantley and work at Eastlake three days a week.” Though lately, she’d been working four days. Still, her remark wasn’t exactly a lie. “One of the ICU nurses, Claire Stone, mentioned your agency.”
The young woman smiled. “Claire’s sent a lot of nurses to us. Once you fill out the application and I’ve checked your credentials, I’ll see if our director can interview you. Since you’re already here, why don’t you fill out the application?” She rose and motioned to Jenessa. “Right this way.”