It’s the second Sunday of Advent and Anne Stone braces for Christmas. Anne has been a nurse at Copley Hospital for 48 of her 69 years. As a young woman, she trained at the Jeanne Mance School of Nursing in Burlington and then served next door as a candy-striper at the Bishop Degoesbriand Hospital in the late ’50s when the twin towns of Winooski and Burlington shared three hospitals. She returned home in 1959 and began nursing at Copley for 85 cents an hour when it was still a four-story wood firetrap enmeshed in countless fire escapes
Most of the time, Anne loves her work. She has opinions about many of the “advances” in health care, but she keeps them to herself. Anne’s life as a nurse is made harder because she knows many of her patients and their life stories. She has been nursing in Morrisville for half a century and can often predict an inhabitant’s admission to the week, if not the day. Anne knows sickness is a continuum that eventually ends up in an admission. The crisis that leads to hospitalization can be acute, like a farm accident or a stroke, or chronic, like emphysema, diabetes, or anemia, but she knows from experience that there are few real accidents in life and that most illness has a long backstory: if you know the person and their story, you can usually predict their arrival at the hospital door.
Weather, daylight, and economics all play parts in the ebb and flow of hospital admissions. Anne chuckles to herself as she dutifully fills out the many data surveys and reports that are a routine part of her life as a charge nurse. The questions so often miss the larger points that affect admissions, the intangibles in people’s lives that have nothing to do with vital signs, quality metrics, patient surveys, and the like. Anne can predict the ebb and flow often by the time of year and the surge of gossip that may engulf someone in the community.
“Did you hear? Peavine’s back on the sauce.”
“That bunch on Tiny’s neck’s gettin’ bigger.”