by Jinryu

The first time I met [Kingston]?  I don’t even remember.  She does, though.  She was being given the tour of the emergency department by the resident who she was to be doing research work for.  Apparently, and this is the way she tells it, this is what happened.

[Jinryu]:  Can I help you guys out?  You look like you need a coordinator.
Resident: Oh, no, it’s okay.  We’re not actually working down here.  God forbid!
[Kingston]: Thanks though.
[Jinryu]: Oh yeah, definately.  You don’t want to work down here.
[Kingston]: Why’s that?
[Jinryu]: Oh, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.  That is, unless you decide to work down here. Then. You know.  You could do some killing too.
Resident: Hahaha!  You kill me!
[Jinryu]: What? Should I?  Did I tell you already?!
[Kingston]: (nervous laughter)

(… and they walk off…)

Mind you, I don’t remember any of this.

Days later, while I was working for surgery, I ran into her several times at triage.  One of the nurses mulled over a fashion magazine, asking me “[Jinryu], I need some new magazines and a martini.”

“We’re all out of magazines [T].  You know how hard it is to sneak those into the hospital.”
“Oh well dammit all, [Jinryu]! If I can’t get both I don’t want either.”

The other nurse was reading a book in one of the examination rooms.  The admissions department, which was connected to triage by a little window, was similarly silent.  It was a really quiet evening.

[Kingston], who was from Vancouver but who is studying at Queens in Kingston (hence the choice of pseudonums for the sake of online anonymity) stood out because normally, the only people at triage are nurses or coordinators like myself, and coordinators don’t have a sense of impatience in their pacing like she does.  When it comes to sick children, no news is good news. She, on the other hand, had that eye which said she was looking for patients, which is something that neither nurses nor coordinators  want to do unless forced.  Inactivity at a hospital is a paragon privilege. 

“Heya.  I don’t think we’ve met,” I said, answering her bored smile.  “My name’s [Jinryu].”
“[Kingston].  Hi!” she shook my hand after putting her pen in her pocket, which was another sign that she wasn’t one of us: no way we’d have the budget for that.
“Are you doing a study on something?”
“Oh, yeah.  It’s pretty dead out here though.  I haven’t had any candidates all day.”
“What’re you looking for?”
“Well, I’m supposed to test blood sugar drops in patients with gastro.  And they have to be under 5 years old.”
“Ah,” I nod. “Well, that would explain it.”
“What would?”
“Why you can’t find candidates for your study.  When did you start?”
“I’ve been here for like three hours.  Oh, you mean the study?  It’s actually not mine, but the resident I’ve been working under, [Resident] has been trying to get it done since he was in med school, so… I just started on it last week.”
“Oh, well, there’s your problem.  Gastro is so February.  The in thing right now is H1N1.”
“Oh really!” she laughs.
“Yeah.  I mean, we thought that it ended two months ago, but you know, it kinda made a comeback.  It’s kinda retro and cool now, y’know.  I mean, even I’ve had swine flu. I’d say you’ll be out of a job soon, unless you start going out on the streets and giving gastro to kids under five.  You know, to ensure job security.”

Later that night, she came practically running down the hallway looking for a patient.

“Where is [Child X]??”
“Uh…” I scratched my chin. “I called them in a while ago.  In 25?”
“They’re not there! I checked!”
“Hmm… I think they’ll be back.  I think I overheard they had to go for an x-ray.”

She bolted off.

A half hour later, I ran into her again in triage and she came down the hallway looking ecstatic.
“I got one!” she cried.  I gave her a high five.  It would turn out to be one out of two candidates she’d get all night.

The tough part of a research monkey’s job is that, as a mater of developing an accurate study, the study generally tries to isolate as many variables as possible.  Studies generally target very specific demographics, and that means, your work is to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.  On one hand, on a busy day, a research monkey will sift through tons of initial diagnostics at triage looking for a candidate for the study, which is a ton of work; in contrast, on a quiet day the likelihood of someone coming in meeting those criteria is drastically reduced, and they wonder why they even bother.  And of course, patients’ families aren’t obliged to agree to the study either, so even if you do find a candidate, they don’t necessarily want to cooperate.

When you really think about it, [Kingston]’s job is to find children who are shitting and vomitting, and then ask their parents if it’s okay to stick them with a needle.  You can imagine how thrilled most people are at the concept.

Thus, the busy days are long, and the quiet days are even longer.

On quiet days, we have plenty of time to chat.  One day it just so happened that I finally managed to set a date to have dinner and drinks with some coworkers– three of my fellow coordinators– which is a miracle.  The thing about hospital work is that hospitals never close.  There are about 3 main shifts of staff per day spread out to cover the place: days; evenings; and overnights.  For us clerks though, because there are a number of odd little tasks that come at specific times of the day, we operate on about six different shifts.  No two clerks on any given day ever start and finish at the same time.  Our shifts overlap, sometimes more than others, but that’s the extent of it.

Thus, making friends with coordinators and trying to, ahem, coordinate, in the sense of extra-cirricular activities, is near impossible.  Either you don’t finish at the same time, you’re not off on the same days, or, worse still, you’re sleeping.  It’s just very difficult to meet up with people from our department because schedules conflict terribly.

It just so happened that by some alignment of the moons, 4 of my coworkers agreed to come to the same evening.  That’s an abnormally high count of availabilty, as far as I’m concerned.  It was pretty awesome.

But you know, if you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is– and as it were, 3 out of 4 of those coworker cancelled within hours of the get together.  Thankfully, the event also included a handful of my non-work friends.

[Kingston] was the only one who made it, making her the first of my co-workers to ever hang out with me outside of a workplace context, despite that I’ve been working at the Montreal Childrens’ for the last 7 months.