Arnie’s 1966 navy Impala pulled into the driveway. Slipping into a jacket, I picked up my purse and ran out the back door of my rent-a-room house. A crisp fall wind swirled colorful leaves from the tree overhead through the air. In the car, Arnie greeted me with a kiss. Before backing out of the driveway, he asked, “How was your first day working for Saint Joseph’s Hospital?”
“Amazing. I got to see a baby born!” I excitedly responded. “The mother had medical problems, so it was a high-risk pregnancy. Evelyn and I got to observe everything from start to finish.”
“Evelyn?” my boyfriend questioned.
“I wasn’t the only new employee to start working on the obstetrics unit today.” I explained, “Evelyn is older and has worked on other units at the hospital in the past.”
My boyfriend and I had met in June, the same month I moved to Wausau to work at Hospital North. We soon began seeing each other each day. Between his job and visiting me, Arnie was driving over 100 miles a day. By September we knew we were headed for marriage, so I applied for a job at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and we both moved to Marshfield. Arnie found a rooming house for himself, while I rented a bedroom from Alma, a widow who lived two blocks from the hospital. My first day of work was on September 29th, 1969.
In the many years that I worked for Saint Joseph’s Hospital, I was fortunate enough to work mostly day shifts. The few evening shifts and even fewer night shifts that I did work, were few and far in between. Since Wisconsin’s daylight is limited in the winter, I spent many dark mornings shuffling through freshly fallen leaves, accumulating snow or melting slush to arrive at work in time to start my shifts.
Each year the pace of work at the hospital picked up in speed. I was given time-saving tools to use, but there seemed to be ever more and more to do. Being so busy bothered me because I was afraid that I might not be able to finish assigned tasks during my shift. Not only was there less and less time to get to know the patients, but less and less time to take breaks or eat lunch.
As some of my coworkers neared retirement age, they eagerly counted down the time they had left to work. I never did that. I wasn’t paying attention, figuring I had a few more years to work. Then my 65th birthday seemed to suddenly pop up from nowhere. Surprised, I breathed a sigh of relief. There would be no more alarm clocks going off at five-thirty in the mornings, no more limping around on sore feet!
I worked my first dreamland night shift about a year after I retired. When I woke, I told my daughter, “I dreamed about working at the hospital last night. I wasn’t able to take care of all of my patients by the time the shift ended. That really bothered me!”
Tammie responded, “Relax Mom, it was only a dream.”
Since that first work-related dream five years ago, I estimate that at least eighty percent of my dreams are centered on some aspect of working at the hospital. Sometimes I’m on the obstetrics unit, other times I’m on a medical-surgical unit or the orthopedic unit I worked on in later years. The nurses I dream about are seldom the ones I worked with on those units. The subject of my dreams always centers on my not taking care of all the patients assigned to me by the end of my shift.
The other morning, I complained to my daughter, “I hate working these night shifts. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could ever successfully finish my work.”
Tammie questioned, “Who handles Human Relations in the dream world?”
I rolled my eyes and guessed, “Whoever it is, would probably just tell me to ‘work smarter, not harder.’”