When I came in to work on Thursday night, the day shift charge nurse, Mindy, stopped me at the nurse's station.
"Guess what?" she said.
"I get to go home?" I asked naively.
"Noooo," she said, and I suddenly notice everyone around the nurse's station watching and giggling expectantly, "you're the charge nurse tonight."
"Me???" I said, panicking, "Don't you need training to do that??"
She explained that the night charge nurse had called in sick and that, technically, I'd been there the longest of anyone else who was on. Never mind that the vast majority of that time was spent not as a nurse. I tried to explain to Mindy that this was only slightly better than making a janitor charge nurse, but there was no arguing. She assured me I would be fine, made a list of stuff I needed to get done, and checked all the crash carts with me. Then she went home and it was just me, sitting at that desk, feeling tiny.
I called Jeff and told him the situation, and he immediately said, "Don't you need some kind of training for that?"
After I got off the phone with Jeff, I sat back down at the desk, trying to look official.
"Hey, Maria," I said to the secretary who was sitting next to me at the desk,"what do you usually see the charge nurse doing this time of night?"
"Ummm, getting report on all the patients from the telemetry tech?"
"Oh, " I said, "that's a great idea!"
And so it went. A lot of stuff I did know just from watching the charge nurse these past years, some things I guessed, some things I asked people about. The hospital supervisor was reallly nice to me. If we'd had a code blue, I would have been incredibly screwed, but we had a quiet night. In the morning my friend Lisa made us these absurd hats out of coffee filters that said "Jayne is the best charge nurse ever" and made us all wear them as the doctors started to trickle in…