First published on Saturday the 12th of December, 2015, this piece comes in at number 30 in the top 30 Villainesse stories of 2015.
When we were growing up, ER screened regularly in our lounge. My sister would plant herself a metre away from it, legs crossed under her and leaning forward to soak up all the gory detail she could.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t get further away from the TV. Pathetically faint at the sight of needles and scarred from the sadness of watching The Lion King, I didn’t fancy much drama as a kid.
So, it would come as no surprise - 20 years later - that Stacey is now a nurse at a hospital emergency department and I do my 40 hours safely behind a desk as a communications specialist.
What would have surprised young me though, is the massive difference in how our professions are valued.
Let me illustrate.
A big mistake in my role is sending an email out to all staff with an incorrect link. I’ve done that.
A big mistake Stacey could make is giving a patient the wrong medication. She’s never done that.
When I do something ordinary, I’m treated with respect. People say please and demonstrate appreciation (mostly). And all of this takes place in the perfectly harmless arena of emails, phone calls or meeting rooms. Generally, I’m sitting in a chair.
When Stacey does something ordinary (for her), it might involve contact with human faeces. Stuck in a room, the smell is unbearable. She’s on her feet for sure, and her hands are somewhere the majority of us couldn’t fathom. The incontinent, delirious patient might be screaming obscenities at her. And Stacey’s on her own.
The riskiest situation at my work is stepping into the temperamental lift – and it’s never made good on its many threats, in my time at least. One of the riskier situations at Stacey’s work is when her patient load is stretched by an influx of admissions. It happens often and the potential consequences are far-reaching, and awful.
This might be taking place on a Friday night, long after I’ve enjoyed a drink with colleagues - at work. Stacey’s working all the weekends and night shifts she can, to bump her income up a fraction and pay her debt off faster.
Her social life exists only by the grace of other nurses. They catch up at funny hours and debrief on work stories that only they can really relate to. With no regularity to her roster, she can’t plan her life a month in advance. Routine doesn’t exist, exercise is a wish and she spends a good deal of her time off simply re-setting her body clock for the next round of shifts she’s on.
Having kids and working the way she does, Stacey says, would be impossible. And as a hopeful part of her five-year vision, she knows something will need to change.
I don’t need to explain how it works with my Monday-to-Friday gig. Topping my list of concerns for starting a family sit traffic dilemmas, and wondering if the housing market might one day burst and let us Millennials in.
Any complaint or woe I have pales in comparison to Stacey’s. Yet she’s the lifesaver. The highly capable, get-in-there-smiling, impossible-to-dislike, champion.
In my eyes Stacey is a hero.
It’s simply baffling who seems to have the better deal.Support Villainesse