No Cliffhangers: “Duty” a Short Story

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Cliffhangers.” Write a post about the topic of your choice, in whatever style you want, but make sure to end it with “…and all was well with the world.” After 34 years as an emergency room trauma nurse, and fifteen years as a nursing shift supervisor,…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Cliffhangers.”

Write a post about the topic of your choice, in whatever style you want, but make sure to end it with “…and all was well with the world.”


After 34 years as an emergency room trauma nurse, and fifteen years as a nursing shift supervisor, I have witnessed the worst of humanity along with the miraculous tender moments of life.

Over the years, the patients never caused me as much stress and pain as the policies of the hospital’s administration. Because of their policies, I gained more gray hairs than when my children were teenagers.

On November 1, the hospital administration hired a highly educated administrative personnel manager who possessed no experience or practical knowledge on the operation of a level 1 trauma hospital emergency room for which he was to manage.

In less than one month after his hiring, senior nurses, technicians, administrative staff, either retired, transferred to other positions within the hospital and the rest simply quit. These employee actions took place before cutting personnel to half before Thanksgiving.


At 2:00 pm, on Thanksgiving afternoon. My turkey dinner with all of the fixings was ready to be eaten when the phone ranged. My fourteen family members who gathered at my home for dinner instantly assumed it was the ER’s administrator asking me to report for duty. My family assumptions were correct.

So after blessings the food, we all gave thanks individually including my grandchildren. We ate dinner, and I skipped desert, promising my grandchildren when I return I will share desert with them.

As I drove the twenty minutes to the hospital, I counted the number of times I made the trip to the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. When I turned into the hospital’s parking lot, I counted today was my twenty-fifth Thanksgiving, I either worked or was called into work.

I entered the hospital through the waiting room to get a visual of how overwhelmed the staff was. The waiting room has a legal capacity of 75 people. However, there were at least 100 people with at least twenty people standing.

The Thanksgiving holiday can be a very busy time in the emergency room. Most patients arrive with preexisting conditions exasperated because they either forgot to take their medications, or just overeat foods they should never have consumed.

I had fifteen patient rooms, five of which were fast track room for those not so emergencies, plus two designated trauma rooms. I had eight nurses, five of which who answered the call to appear on Thanksgiving. I had one physician assistant, one doctor and for the next seven hours we managed sixty-five patients without turning anyone away.

Not to mention handling three heart attacks patients. Two of whom walked in, and the others were brought in by ambulance.

Two severe allergic peanut reactions and five asthmas patients who took their nebulizer treatments in the hallway.

Between 5:00 and 7:00 pm, four turkey carving lacerations arrived, and one was a complete amputation of a finger.

However, the evening would not be complete without the two expectant mothers who walked into the emergency room and delivered. Their births were easy since the on-duty birthing center nursing supervisor loaned me a couple of her nurses at 3:00 pm.

By 7:34 pm the police came with the ambulances, which is never a good sign.

There was one gun shot patient, three stabbing patients (not turkey carving related,) and one severely beaten patient. After all it was Thanksgiving Day, a time for families to be thankful, share in the joy, happiness and goodwill for all.

At 8:07 pm, I recognized the name of the director of ER personnel on the patient screen. He arrived with one partially severed thumb, the result of carving his turkey.

We processed his paperwork and prepped him for surgery in the ER, and he was next in line behind two other patients who were awaiting surgery for digit reattachment or repair.

I stopped by to check on the administrator and when I entered his room, he immediately apologized for calling me in on Thanksgiving. He acknowledged I was not doing an exceptional job properly staffing and managing the emergency room. He again thanked me for responding on Thanksgiving and asked if I could stay on until at least midnight.

I said no. I told him, I have dessert with my grandchildren waiting for me upon my return home. He acknowledged with a smile and nodded his head, and we said our good bye’s and I wished him a speedy recovery.

On my walk back to the ER room. I thought of the original reason I was called in. I thought of the three patients who arrived before I did earlier when their homes burned while deep frying turkeys.

Upon my return to the ER, I was relieved at 10:00 pm by the midnight staff that arrived a couple of hours early. I returned home to share pumpkin pie and whipped cream with my grandchildren.

Two weeks after Thanksgiving, I was offered to take over as temporary administrator of ER personnel, while the current administrator recuperated from his thumb injury. I was given a week to consider the hospital’s offer. There was a pay increase. However, I was not allowed to hire any personnel.

During Christmas Eve evening my husband I sat in front of the fireplace, the Christmas tree nearby. I told him I was not taking the position. He smiled with glee and suggested I retire.

On the day after Christmas, I formally turned down the hospitals offer, but I also I turned in my notice of retirement, and a leave slip to take time off while my retirement paper was processed. I did not return or have I worked in a hospital ever since.


That was ten years ago. Now, I volunteer at the local animal hospital once a week. I have not encountered any animal patients or hospital administration staff liked the ones I experienced as a nurse.

I buy my grandchildren ice cream once a week, and all is well in my world.

The Daily Post Prompt

Responses to “No Cliffhangers: “Duty” a Short Story”

  1. lifelessons

    Wow. Hand of applause. I can’t believe you handled all those emergencies and I’m doubly impressed that you can remember them all! It sounds terrible to say I enjoyed your essay, but it was well told and I did!!!

  2. JoHanna Massey

    Standing ovation on this one!

  3. Laduchessederat

    Wow. I’m in awe. I’m sharing on my FB.

    1. Retirement Lifestyle / Nomadic Adventurer

      Why thank you Laduchessederat! 🙂

      1. Laduchessederat

        You’re welcome. I truly loved it.

  4. bisimodupe1975

    I must say thank you for giving us a peep into your world working as a Nurse. You went the extra mile doing more than was required. God bless you for lovingly taking care of every wounded patient. Incidentally one of my sisters is a nurse…a very good one because her patients miss her every time she has to be away. She can’t retire yet but the work load is getting at her. I celebrate every Nurse like you and her!!!

    1. Retirement Lifestyle / Nomadic Adventurer

      Why thank you Bismodupe1975. The story is based on my life and times working with nurses and firefighters. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: