The alarm clock is set for 4:30 a.m. so I can arrive at the hospital for my scheduled 12‐hour shift. The shift always becomes 16 or 20‐hours because of severe staffing shortages. I leave for work before it is light outside and arrive home well after dark. Weekend and Holiday are foreign words. Every day I care for babies of all ages. I take care of others’ loved ones while my own are at home without me.
All day I clean up poop, urine, vomit, sputum, blood—any bodily fluid imaginable—and am exposed to all of the latest diseases. I take health histories from people who know more about what Lindsay Lohan is wearing than they do about their own medication and health condition. Many of the people I care for are killing themselves with food, drink, and drugs.
I’m sure the patients I care for are delightful people, but sick and injured folks, who have waited 4+ hours in the waiting room, have little tolerance for humor and joviality. I can’t blame them, but I wish I could remember the last time I worked a shift without being yelled at by someone.
My nickname at work is TAZ (as in Tasmanian Devil), because of my efficiency. (Well, partly because of my humorous pranks, but mostly because of my efficiency.) I can enter a room, complete ten tasks (and set up one prank) before anyone realizes I was in the room. Frequently, I get assigned the most critical patients. I know this is a compliment to my skill level, but it also means I deal with more trauma, more infant deaths, and more complicated social issues than most. It’s also the reason I HAVE TO maintain my sense of humor.
When my head hits the pillow, I should be so exhausted that sleep comes easily, but the replay button goes off, and I think about the CODE we had and how it could have gone better. Did Mrs. Smith make it? Did Mr. Jones get his sandwich?
Why do I do this? Because when the team wins, and that one patient, patient’s family or co‐worker comes up to me and says, “You made a difference,” I feel good. AND, I do it to support my love of diving and adventure. I can only dream of a job where I see sunlight and all the participants want to be there, willingly engaging in healthy activity.
Where the sirens in my head turn off and are replaced by slow breathing and blue bubbles. Where the only bodily fluids I will be exposed to is the dried spit on a shared regulator.
Why do I want to change my life and become a PADI Instructor?
Because I have seen:
Broken bones, broken teeth, goo in fat folds, objects in orifices, stabbings and shootings, heroin addicts and heart attacks. But I have never seen Bali. My name is Kathi, and BOY do I want a change.
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