Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No Hair in the Gate

Sharon Wildwind

The part of movie cameras where photography happens is called the gate. The rest of the camera is there to store unexposed and exposed film and move the film, frame-by-frame, through the gate. Once the camera starts rolling, it’s impossible to tell if anything unwanted has gotten into the gate.

When a scene has been filmed the camera operator opens the camera to inspect the gate. She or he is looking for hair, a speck of dust, or the occasional insect which might have been trapped in the gate during shooting.

If there is something there the whole scene has to be reshot. When the operator calls out to the director, “No hair in the gate,” the director decides if he or she likes the scene. If it was satisfactory, the director calls out something like, “That’s a wrap,” or sometimes “Can it,” which means to put the exposed film in the can.

This morning at eight o’clock, when I signed off my last shift, I put 48 years and 6 months of nursing in the can.

In October 1962 I worked my first Saturday shift as a volunteer with my high school Future Nurses Club. I worked from 8 AM to 3 PM, in a nursing home, where I distributed water, spent time talking to the residents, took them to the dining room, and helped serve them meals.

This past weekend I worked my last on-call weekend, starting at 9 AM on Saturday morning and ending at 8 AM Monday morning. It was in a community-based geriatric program affiliated with a care centre, which is the updated name for nursing home. I supervised a staff of 3 licensed practical nurses and 14 nursing assistants, caring for over 70 frail, multi-need elderly. I carried a cell phone, accessed client information on a laptop, assessed and managed clients who were unstable, conferred with our on-call physician, and, oh yeah, spent time talking to the residents, took them to the dining room, and helped serve them meals.

In between those two book-ends, I nursed on two continents, in three countries. I worked in trauma and critical care, orthopedics, rehabilitation, public health, home care, and geriatrics. I was a staff nurse, relief float nurse, head nurse, evening supervisor, nurse-educator, and certified geriatric nurse.

The first baby I saw born was named Sharon. Not after me, the mother didn’t even know my name, but I still liked the coincidence.

During the very first shift I worked as a graduate nurse (3-11 shift on a medical-surgical unit), a licensed practical nurse asked me if she should give a patient an extra dose of Tylenol for a headache. I looked at this woman who had been in nursing longer than I’d been on earth. Four years of nursing school evaporated. I didn’t have a clue whether I should say yes or no, so I said, “Let’s go over the chart and make this decision together.”

I worked a huge number of evening and night shifts, which I’d always preferred to day shifts. In the past eleven years, I’ve pulled roughly 1,800 on-call shifts, which means having the phone on all night, just in case there was a problem.

I survived a few mortar attacks and a few dress parades. On the whole, I preferred the mortar attacks.

I rode with a rural volunteer ambulance and survived rolling the ambulance on its head into a ditch on an icy road.

I taught so many orientation classes that if it was 9:30 Thursday morning, I could tell you what sentence I’d be saying. No matter how many I taught orientation, I never slept the night before a new group of employees started work. Johnny Rico explained it better than I ever could.

“I always get the shakes before a drop. . . . It stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. . . . It isn't anything important—[the psychiatrist says] it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate. I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time. ~Juan Rico, Starship Trooper by Robert A. Heinlein

My first year in nursing school, keeping up with class assignments meant going to the library to try to find where issues of the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature had been misfiled. If I was fortunate enough to find the index that I needed, I’d spend several hours identifying maybe 10 articles that might be relevant to my topic. Six would be in journals that the library didn’t have. Two more would turn out to be duds, so I’d emerge from the library after three or four hours, carrying photocopies of two articles that possibly might be relevant.

In my last six months in nursing I followed 12 Internet sites, all specifically related to geriatric nursing. I read 45 multi-disciplinary articles from all over the world, in my home office, on the computer, at a time of my choosing. The last workshop I took was an on-line module in Coping and Adapting to Chronic Illness. The last article I read—10 days before I retired—was “Positive and Negative Neuropiasticity: Implications for Age-Related Cognitive Declines” from the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

My last team. I'm still saying, "Let's make this decision together."

This morning I opened the gate, took a good look inside, and knew there was no hair there. I’m good to go. Literally. Away from nursing and more into my next careers of being a writer and artist. I probably will still get the shakes whenever an important artistic deadline looms, but that’s okay. Johnny Rico survived and I will, too.

It's a wrap.


Sandra Parshall said...

Sharon, you have the satisfaction of knowing you contributed something worthwhile to the world -- you truly made a difference. You can move on with a sense of pride. Enjoy your new life! Write more books for us!

Susan said...

Congratulations on your retirement! I can relate because I retired from teaching in December after 44 years and our jobs have a great deal in common. Of my friends, two are retired happily and one is not. The difference, I believe, is having something to do beyond your job even when working, something that gives you satisfaction. You have your writing and it won't be the same kind of "job," but now you'll have more time to concentrate on it. That's just a gift for both you and your readers!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Mazel tov, Sharon. Hope you enjoy this life transition to the max. And what a great line! I can imagine all sorts of situations in which "Let's make this decision together" might come in handy.

Timothy Hallinan said...

Oh, boy -- no hair in the gate. A whole new image for practically every blessed day, since as we all know, most days are blessed; the blessings already are. Thank you so much.

And may the writing flow.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Congratulations, Sharon, on a job well done. Wishing you a smooth transition to the next phase!

Anonymous said...

Best wishes on your retirement. I hope you enjoy having more time for your writing and art. I also, selfishly, hope I get more of your books to read.

Janet Dawson said...

Sharon, great post. Best of luck to you as you move forward.