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Fiction American Contemporary

Before God and those assembled here, I solemnly pledge;

To adhere to the code of ethics of the nursing profession;

To co-operate faithfully with the other members of the nursing team and to carry out faithfully and to the best of my ability the instructions of the physician or the nurse who may be assigned to supervise my work;

I will not do anything evil or malicious and I will not knowingly give any harmful drug or assist in malpractice.

I will not reveal any confidential information that may come to my knowledge in the course of my work.

And I pledge myself to do all in my power to raise the standards and prestige of the practical nursing;

May my life be devoted to service and to the high ideals of the nursing profession.

-        Nightingale Pledge, modernized. 



 A fly on the wall or invisble spy in the intentionally darkened office at Saint Crystal’s Regional Hospital would immediately assume that Head Nurse Shannon Ashley wasted her mornings doom scrolling social media from her desk. Dark curls streaked with subtle glimmers of silver rioted from her scalp and tumbled to her shoulders softly. She held a handful of thick tendrils in her free hand, twirling absently. Her brow furrowed over narrowed hazel eyes as she collected a screen shot from her Iphone, sighed in disgust, and crossed another name off the mile long list of candidates.


She could smell and taste her breakfast smoothie from under her medical grade mask and removed it, relishing the quick break from masking.  She’d been at the hospital since six that morning, reviewing the list of nursing candidates to invite to their overflowing hospital. Since the Pandemic,  St. Crissy’s lost a large percentage of its staff to COVID diagnosis, fear of diagnosis, and refusal to vaccinate. The remaining nurses were averaging 70-hour weeks and the stress beat them mercilessly. 


 She’d been at the search for weeks but she knew that no one else cared enough to be this thorough. Her needle in the haystack might be a myth in their little community. She hoped not, she herself was a needle, she reasoned. The sharpest needle there. 


I’mma poke all these motherfuckers, she thought to herself with a dry laugh. Her phone dinged, and a banner notification said that she had meetings in twenty minutes. She only had twenty minutes left. 


“Twyla James, R.N.,” she repeated the name with an exaggerated drawl cultivated from a culturally colorful upbringing in the South. She grew up poor, the only white girl in her black neighborhood. She graduated high school and partied through college, barely making her Bachelors. That felt like a million years ago, but she still felt the same pride as she glanced at the photo of her, her family and best friends at her pinning ceremony. Over twenty years ago she pledged the same promise every nurse in her hospital made in their own ceremonies and she couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else heard those words. 


She entered the name in the search engine from her desktop computer and a list of social media accounts under that name populated the screen. The name was common, Twyla James. She could be this Black woman holding a pair of chubby adorable twins. Maybe the Twyla James with the nosering and crop top. Shannon decided to begin her search with Black Twyla with the babies. She hoped this Twyla could be her needle.


She was not. This Twyla wasn’t even a nurse; she appeared to be a church pastor. On to Nosering Twyla. 


She pressed her thumb over the picture, pulling up Nosering Twyla’s social media. She gazed up at Shannon Ashley, lips puckered, fingers up in a peace sign, puppy ears wagging. She started by looking at her profile pictures, selfies mostly of her making the same face with a different filter sporting another animal’s ears. Twyla as a kitten, bunny rabbit, devil horns. Twyla as a sparkly person with aviator glasses. Twyla liked Snapchat.


She also was not her needle. On to another Twyla. 


Her thumb swiped over her profile section. Twyla’s birthday was in January.  Relationship Status: Married. Anniversary, August 4. A masked picture of her in scrubs graced her profile picture.


Please God, let this be my needle.

Her timeline looked interesting, active. Graphics with positive, affirming quotes about self love and women empowering others. Shannon Ashley giggled as she landed on a picture of Twyla and a group of women posing with their wine glasses held high, toasting an event. They looked drunk and excited to be alive. Twyla liked to party. She kept scrolling. She liked this Twyla so far.


About a week into the timeline, Shannon Ashley stops.  She found exactly what she was looking for, her turd in the punchbowl. She took her screenshot, placed a red line through Twyla James, and checked the next name on her list. Lawrence Wright.  She entered his name in the search engine and was surprised to see that he played college basketball at a west coast college. He owned profiles on every social media app but appeared to share very little about himself. Single, no children. No political views. 



Unfortunately and quickly, Lawrence also failed her test. She took the screen shot and sent it to her roommate. 

“Look, another nurse calling Kyle Rittenhouse a hero,” she texted, dropping the eyeroll emoji.


“Gross,” Karin replied “How can you expect a racist sympathizer to care for a diverse population?”


“You don’t,” Replied Shannon Ashley. She dropped her phone into the pocket of her scrubs and tossed her hair. She looked at the Nightingale Pledge framed on her wall and read it softy, reminding herself that in her hospital, everyone would be taken care of, regardless of who they were. 


She finished her pledge and adjusted the Black Lives Matter mask over her medical grade. She thought about the LPN she fired two weeks ago for calling a Venezuelan patient an ‘illegal.’ She recalled the surgeon who couldn’t keep his hands off of her, finally gone after a lengthy and reluctant battle from HR. Somebody had to keep the wolves out. 


You’re the needle in the haystack, Shannon. 

She feels her phone vibrate and looks at the screen.


“Poke those motherfuckers,” Karin’s text said, adding a needle, string, and a flexed arm. 


“Duh, bitch,” Shannon Ashley replied, dropping her phone back into her pocket as she shut the door. 





April 24, 2023 16:54

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1 comment

00:51 May 02, 2023

This is interesting. The writing is very rich. I’m left unsure if I’m supposed to agree with the nurse who is trying to uphold her principles or feel like she’s undermining them with the gate keeping. At first that seemed like a flaw but the more I think about, the more clear it is that that’s the whole point. Nicely done


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