Seven Shifts Left

I’ve got seven shifts left, or eighteen meds rounds until I stop measuring time in terms of number of drugs rounds.

Shift patterns mean that I’ve reached a stage where I’ve started working with people for the last time. If you work somewhere that does thirteen hour shifts, a lot of the staff might just work three days a week, and it’s very easy to go for weeks without seeing someone. It’s a funny sort of work pattern peculiar to certain sorts of jobs. I’ve never done any other sort of job so I can’t tell whether the bonds of camaraderie are stronger when all of your working hours are spent in close quarters with the same people all the time, or when you have to look to see who you’re going to be working with (and groan or rejoice as appropriate). If there are people you don’t like working with in an office, is that just it, every day forever?

So I’m nearing the end of my contract, and I’ve started saying goodbye. ‘Oh, you’re working Monday-Wednesday nights? Well I won’t see you again. Maybe ever.’ It’s weird. I’m not normally a hugger; awkward rather than misanthropic, for the most part. I’ve worked with these people so long, and there are a few characters there who I really, really love, admire, value. My real comprehension of what leaving really means is coming in waves.

There have been a couple of hugs (awkward), and a couple of times where I’ve got home and realised that I didn’t really say goodbye to a person I might never see again. I suppose if it matters I should make sure I do see them again. I can work out what people do on weekends and do that with them. We’ll see.

In nursing you tend to work with a lot of women. The last time I looked up statistics on it, something like 9 out of 10 nurses in the UK were women. It might have changed a little, but it sounds about right in my experience. I wonder if it makes a difference to how people react to a colleague leaving. There’s a social formality to the leaving process; someone takes on the role of organizing flowers or bottle of gin or trinkets chosen with a nod to the leaver’s career change or personality (I’ve asked for a cactus shaped like a willy, but I think they think I’m joking). And there are hugs.

I do wonder if it would be different if I didn’t work with so many women. What are the socially programmed norms and rituals surrounding the leaving of a colleague and does it make a difference if they’re performed by someone other than the main family present-buyers, card-senders, emotional burden-carriers? Remember that thing the bloke out of the White Stripes did, where he had a band who were all men, and a band who were all women, and they did the same things separately? That’s not good research, though. You’d need to do that a thousand times and have some objective assessment criteria. Try harder, Jack White.

I’m not going to be able to draw any conclusions on this, because I’m leaving a female-dominated profession to work alone. In my house, or in a café, or anywhere. I will be a lone digital nomad, and every day I will work with my both favourite and my most hated colleague. She can be such a dick. My experience of the phrase ‘lone worker’ so far has meant staying safe in other people’s houses… what about when it’s just me?

I could finally start suffering and write my masterpiece. I should get a social hobby. Do people still do roller derby?  


Published by Elaine Francis

I'm a registered nurse making the jump to freelance writing. I started chronicling my notice period with a view to a smooth segue into full-time writing, but it's become an emotional rollercoaster.

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