Consultant surgeon Daniel Ashwood has come to Australia to find the woman he loved and lost a year ago. Unfortunately, he is currently Louise Andrews's patient, rather than her colleague. Nevertheless, he's determined to see if she'll give their relationship another try.
Louise has a surprise for him, too–a three–month–old surprise! After first overcoming his shock, Daniel realizes that baby Declan could actually be the miracle he thought would never happen. Now all he needs is another miracle–to convince.
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"Sorry, what was your surname again?"
"Andrews," Louise repeated, her bag over her shoulder, standing awkwardly as everyone else sat and trying not to blush as a very pretty but clearly irritated nurse relayed her details down the telephone to the nursing co-ordinator in front of the entire handover room. She was already feeling self-conscious enough in her new navy uniform, with new navy shoes and newly trimmed long dark wavy hair tied back with a new navy hair tie and now, and to make her feel even more selfconscious, the charge nurse seemed far from pleased to see her.
"Hi, Kelly, it's Elaine here on ASU. I've got a Louise Andrews here from the hospital bankshe says that she's booked to work here for the next four weeks to cover Del's sick leave, but Del was rostered for a late shift today." The longest pause ensued, the night staff yawning loudly, no doubt keen to get handover out of the way so they could head for home, while, in contrast, the day staff chatted happily, sipping their coffee and catching up on newsclearly in no particular rush to get out on the ward and start working.
"How can she possibly be down for four weeks of earlyshifts?"Elaine's surprised voice snapped everyone to attention. "Since when did Del only work early shifts? If the bank nurse is supposed to be covering for Del, surely she should just take over her roster."
Another horribly long pause ensued, only this time it wasn't filled with idle chatterand Louise could feel every eye on her as Elaine's far from dulcet tones filled the room.
"Oh, we'd all love to pick and choose when we work, Kelly, but for most of us it isn't possible! Now it would seem that I'm going to have to spend the best part of the morning changing my regular staff's shifts to accommodate a casual. It's simply not on. Either Sister AdamsI mean Andrews is to come back at one p.m. for the late shift or another nurse will need to be arranged to cover Del's roster."
A year ago she'd have been tempted to turn tail and run correction, Louise thought, a year ago she would have crumbled on the uncomfortable spot and offered to work each and every one of the mysterious Del's shifts and anything else in between just to get this difficult moment over withbut a lot of things had changed since a year ago, so instead Louise stood if not firm then feebly resolute, pointedly not saying anything until, with a very pained sigh, Elaine handed her the telephone.
"The nursing co-ordinator wants to talk to you. Could you take it outside, please, so that we can get on with handover?"
Which meant one of two things. Either she was about to spend the entire morning barely knowing what was going on with the patients, thanks to missing out on handover, or Louise gulped at the least palatable optionshe was going home.
Without a word and with an incredibly steady hand, given the circumstances, Louise took the phone and headed out into the corridor, making sure the door was closed behind herbefore speaking to the nursing co-ordinator. She was determined to keep calm, determined not to let the knot of anxiety that was in her stomach creep into her voice, but her eyes were screwed closed as Kelly introduced herself. Leaning against the wall, Louise waited to find out if the weeks of careful planning and major upheaval had all been worth it, waited to find out if she actually had a job.
"Is Elaine giving you a hard time?"A tinkle of laughter from the nursing co-ordinator had Louise peeling her eyes open. "I'm Kelly, by the way."
"Hi, Kelly," Louise said, relieved to hear a friendly voice and warming to the other woman's tone. "It would seem that Elaine wants me to take over Del's shifts; but I'm sorryI'm just not able to. I did say at my interview that I could only work early shifts and only on weekdays"
"Don't apologise," Kelly cut in. "The whole point of being a bank nurse is being able to choose your shifts. Elaine should be counting herself lucky that we've been able to send the ward an experienced surgical nurse. Did you tell her just how qualified you are?"
"We didn't actually get that far with introductions," Louise admitted.
"Well, it was either you and four weeks of early shifts or a grad nurse straight out of uniand if I were the one in charge of the acute surgical unit this morning, I know who I'd choose!"
"So it's OK for me to stay?""Absolutely. Look, you're going to have to grow a thick skin pretty fast, I'm afraid, Louise. The hospital bank is still fairly newtill a few months ago we used an agency. Some of our ward staff can't quite get used to the idea that a casual staff member should get to choose their shifts, get a better hourlyrate of pay and use the facilities like the gym and crèche. Feel free to point out to them that your work isn't guaranteed, and there's no such thing as sick pay or annual leave" Kelly was no doubt trying to help, but as she pointed out the pitfalls of being a bank nurse, Louise felt that familiar knot of anxiety tighten a fraction, the precariousness of her situation not something she wanted to dwell on right now. "The fact of the matter is," Kelly continued, "it's far better for the hospital to have our own team of casual nursesyou get to know the wards, and we get to know you, so everyone wins."
"Thanks for that," Louise said, though she was sure that Elaine would take rather a lot more convincing, "I'd better get back to handover."
"Sure. Oh, and, Louise" Just as she was about to ring off Kelly called her back. "There's an eight-week stretch coming up in Outpatients, just after you finish on the surgical ward. The hours are eight till four, except on Wednesdays when you'd have to stay till five. The work might not be quite as varied or interesting as you're used to, but the hours are great and at least you'd know where you'd be for a while."
"It sounds great," Louise enthused. "How do I apply?""You just have to say yes." Kelly laughed. "Can I put you down?"
"Sure." Louise blinked. "I mean, yes, please." "Done! I'll pop the details in your pigeonhole. Now, if you have any more problems with Elaine, just give me a call, but I'll be up on the ward doing my rounds around eleven. I'll come and say hello to you then. Welcome to Melbourne General!"
Even Elaine's sour expression as she walked back into the meeting room and took her seat at the table couldn't dampen her spirits.
Eight more weeks of guaranteed work!
OK, outpatients wasn't exactly cutting-edge nursing, but Louise truly didn't care. She'd have directed the traffic in the staff car park if it guaranteed her a wage! Eight weeks on top of these four meant that she had work for the next three months. It would see her right up through Christmas, and also meant she could start looking around for a rather more suitable home!
"We're up to bed nine." The nurse next to her pushed a handover sheet towards her as the lethargic night nurse who'd been yawning beforenow zipped through the patients with renewed energy, clearly buoyed by the prospect of home and bed. "I'll fill you in on the rest after handover. I'm Shona by the way."
"Thanks, Shona." Louise smiled, snapping on her pen and running her eyes down the handover sheet, which thankfully contained the names and details of all the patients on the ward with a space left for her to add her own notes. Despite the rocky start to the morning, despite the rather frozen look on Elaine's face as she'd returned and sat down, Louise was utterly determined to enjoy the rest of the dayback in the workforce, doing the job she loved. Nothing could spoil that except.Room 3 Age 35 Danny Ashwood APFI For a second Louise froze, reading again the small amount of information about the patient in Room 3 and trying desperately at the same time to concentrate on the details that were being given about the patient in Room 10.
It couldn't be him, Louise scolded herself, writing down a complicated antibiotic and IV regime, listening carefully to the handover. But at the same time a small part of her brainwas having its own conversation and every now and then, between patients or when the handover was interrupted by a phone call or a nurse popping her head around the door for the drug key, Louise couldn't help but listen to the argument that was raging somewhere in her mind.
It couldn't be him because for one thing he lived in England! As if Daniel would be here in Melbourne.
Anyway, this patient was called DannyDaniel never shortened his name! And it wasn't exactly a rare onethere must be loads of thirty-five-year-old Daniel Ashwoods around the world and no doubt a fair share of them were in hospital at this very moment with abdo pain for investigation.
It could even be a woman, Louise reasoned. Whoever had typed up the handover sheet might have spelt the name wrong! She was getting worked up over nothingno doubt the patient in Room 3 would turn out to be a thirty-five-year-old named Danielle with endometriosis.
Silencing the voices in her head, Louise's lips moved into a pale smileshe was just being paranoid.
"Right!" Handover completed, Elaine looked down at her notes then at the team of nurses as she worked out the complicated task of allocating patients. "Have you had any experience on an acute surgical ward, Louise?"
"Quite a bit." Louise nodded. "I worked on a high-dependency"
"OK,"Elaine cut in, clearly not remotely interested in where Louise had worked before. "I'll give you some easy ones this morning and then you can help out anywhere else you're needed. Beds 4 through 8 are all due to be discharged aftermorning rounds, so can you take them, please? Make sure that their discharge letters and drugs are all in order and check that the district nurse has been booked for Mrs Hadlow in bed 5. I'll take beds 1 to 3, though I might need a hand with Jordan in bed 1. He's just out of ICU with a tracheostomyare you comfortable with tracheostomies? If not," she said, despite Louise's nod, "call me or Shona if you're at all concerned." Louise waited for further patients to be added to her rather paltry workload, but Elaine had already moved on, leaving Louise feeling curiously deflated. For the last couple of weeks she'd dreaded this day, had been reading each and every one of her nursing books and cramming in information, determined not to turn to jelly on her first day back to nursing. And though she knew she should be pleased to be eased in gently, she still felt just a touch disappointed, as if she'd been training for a marathon only to find out it had turned into a rather gentle jog around the park.
"I'll show you around," Shona offered, and Louise gratefully accepted.
"Don't worry," Shona said in a dry voice as she took Louise on a quick tour of the ward. "Elaine's just as lovely to everyone on their first dayI think she just likes to make it clear who's the boss."
"Well, she's made it very clear,"Louise said in an equally dry voice, but with a smile on her face, deciding that she liked Shona.
The other nurse grinned back. "Right, to business. The whole ward is basically shaped like the letter Hyou've got the patient s' rooms running along either side. A few singlebedded rooms and some double-rooms with the all the sickest patients are in the middle, near the nurse s' station. That's beds 1 to 3 and beds 25 to 28.""Is bed 3 very unwell, then?"Louise blushed as she fished for a little more information on the mysterious Danny Ashwood, but Shona just laughed.
"Very embarrassed, I think, would be more apt," she said cryptically, then carried on with her introduction to the ward. Louise desperately tried to pay attention, but over and over her eyes were drawn to the closed door of Room 3. "Each corridor is a mirror image of the other and in the middle is the nurse s' station, doctor s' room and the NUM's officebut Elaine takes it over whenever Candy's off duty. This is the pan roomI'm sure you've seen plenty in your time. The clean room's the one oppositedressings, IV trolleys, that type of thing. Next door we've got the equipment room, which is kept locked or the other wards nick our IV poles" They were chatting as they were walking, Shona pointing things out as they went.
"You'll soon get used to it." They were back to the middle now and both stopped while Louise got her bearings. "This screen lights up when a patient buzzesred means it hasn't been answered, green means there's a nurse in attendance. And here's the crash cart. Do you want to go through it? I'm supposed to check it today so it's no trouble to do it now."
"Please." Louse nodded. The crash cart would be needed in an emergency, not just when a patient went into cardiac arrest but during any sudden deterioration in their condition, and as an emergency wasn't the ideal time to familiarise herself with the contents, she was glad of the chance to go through it now.
"It's all pretty standard.'shona pulled out the list and called out the contents as Louise located them and checked for expiry dates and working order. It was a check that was done daily on any ward to ensure the cart was always up to date, And also each time the trolley was checked or used it was signed off by two staff members.
"How long have you worked here?"Louise asked. "Six months and no time off for good behavior either." Shona smiled. "It can be so busy here. Mind you, it's all good experience. Right, if you're happy that you know where everything is, I'd better get on."
"Sure. Sing out if you need a hand," Louise offered. "I'm not exactly going to be rushed off my feet with the patients I've been allocatedthey're all about to be discharged!"
"Don't count on it." Shona rolled her eyes as the patient call-board lit up like a Christmas tree. "That's two of mine buzzing already."
"Do you want me to get one?""You'd better do your own work first. I'll soon call if I need a hand."
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