Chapter 56 – Nurse Shirley

She was there again, past her shift. But she was asleep in her chair at the Hub, a patient chart open, her computer screen blinking, the file waiting for an entry.

“Shirley,” Nurse Clara called to her. “What are you doing? Are you asleep? For crying out loud, your shift is done, go home and sleep, someone will see you here.”

Nurse Shirley mumbled. She lifted her head, a large red mark on the flat side of her face had formed where her head laid on the desk. A rivulet of drool hung from the corner of her mouth, eyes bloodshot red and her hair bent flat where it had been pressed against the surface of the Hub.

“What?” Nurse Shirley lifted her head, her eyes blinking to clear the sleep.

“You’re sleeping,” Nurse Clara repeated. “You can’t sleep here at work. We have patients.” Clara’s eyebrows curved downward in admonishment.

“No,” Nurse Shirley mumbled. “I’m just doing this chart.”

“With your head flat on the desk?”

“I was just resting my eyes. I’m good now. Long night.”

As Shirley spoke a strong odor of alcohol rose like stale smoke. Nurse Clara turned her head sharply.

“My gawd, you’ve been drinking, I can smell it on your breath.” Nurse Clara covered her nose.

“No,” Nurse Shirley refuted. “It must be my cough medicine. I would never.”

But she had. Before coming to The Lodge she had been dismissed from the Community Hospital for being drunk at work. Her patient charting was inadequate, often absent of updates about services. Before that she had left private service after an elderly patient died mysteriously while in her care. She had been suspected of consuming her patients opioid medication and falling asleep while her patient went into diabetic shock. Shirley Cavanaugh successfully completed her recovery at the Burntwood Rehab Center and was hired on probation at The Lodge. Her work on the night shift had been good, patient residents seemed to like her and there had been no complaints other than one disagreement with a residents daughter about her mother’s missing medication.

Nurse Clara had initial suspicions when Dr Weppler disclosed that a small quantity of medications seemed to be missing from the pharmacy inventory. But the package of drugs were found fallen behind a locked refrigerated cabinet that held residents insulin and other personal medications.

But this, intoxicated at work. Had Shirley passed out at the nurses station or simply fallen asleep after a long night shift? How long had she been out of touch with patients? Aids were already starting morning routines with patients, washing and dressing them for breakfast.

“You smell like a brewery,” Nurse Clara said. “Cough medicine indeed.”

“I just dozed off for a minute. I’m sorry.”

“Have you even done your last bed check? People are already getting up for the day.”

The sun was well above the horizon, daylight and blue sky brightened the floor. A pillar of golden sunlight was already beaming through the Sunroom and there were already residents in the dining hall waiting for their breakfast.

“Please finish your chart and go home to sleep,” Nurse Clara admonished her night shift counterpart. “I will see that our people are up and starting their day.”

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