Doctor On The Job

Doctor On The Job by Richard Gordon

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Authors: Richard Gordon
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noticed for the first time the lines of Rolls-Royces parked outside the Bertram Bunn Wing, discovered its expensive shop, eyed its extravagant interior decoration, heard the soft music and felt the soft carpeting, jostled against the hurrying trays of savoury-smelling food and expensive bottles in baskets or dewy buckets. Three days before, it would all have brought hardly a shrug to his narrow shoulders. Now he saw everywhere pampering rather than nursing, comfort overlying cure, money before medicine. In the mood which had glowed and flamed within him that morning, he found it shockingly unjust that human beings with exactly the same diseases, undergoing exactly the same treatment in exactly the same hospital, should enjoy conditions as different as Dingley Dell from Dotheboys Hall.
    ‘Oh, sorry,’ he said. Further, private patients indulged in frolics certainly not to be countenanced by a St Swithin’s ward sister. ‘May I leave the flowers?’
    ‘My gentleman friend and myself are not, in fact, enjoying ourselves very much.’
    ‘We’re trapped in the jaws of this bed,’ Lord Hopcroft told him.
    ‘Could you be awfully useful and summon some assistance?’
    Pip’s mind had been trained as a medical student in the wards of St Swithin’s to dissect and assess the elements of all alarming situations, then to take swift remedial action. He dropped the flowers and pushed a button on the wall, set in a red ring marked EMERGENCY. At once a light flashed and a bell shrilled outside the open door. He stood looking down sympathetically, waiting for someone to appear. Nobody did.
    ‘Can’t you make a rather more active sort of effort?’ Brenda Bristols complained.
    Pip strolled round to the other side of the bed. ‘There’s a handle,’ he announced, starting to crank it. As the pair struggled free, a female voice came crossly from the corridor, ‘ Why do patients keep pushing the emergency button by mistake? Anyone would think the nursing staff had nothing to do all day.’
    ‘The bathroom!’ exclaimed Lord Hopcroft, leaping in and shutting the door.
    ‘What are you doing, Porter?’ demanded the blue-uniformed matron, hurrying into the private room with cap streamers flying and flicking off the alarm. ‘And what are you doing, Miss Bristols? I don’t remember giving you permission to get out of bed. Oh, let me attend to it, you clumsy fool,’ she continued impatiently, seizing the handle from Pip. ‘Look what you’ve done to this patient. You might easily have fractured several of her vertebrae. You porters must not meddle with these beds, which need a certain amount of intelligence to operate. There, see how quickly I ’ve got it straight –’ She stared and blinked. ‘Pip! What are you doing in this room? In that coat?’
    ‘Oh, hello, Auntie Florrie,’ he replied mildly. ‘I work here.’
    ‘I know you do.’ She stamped a stoutly shod foot. ‘Why aren’t you taking your exams?’
    ‘I failed.’
    ‘How utterly disgraceful.’
    ‘I’m sorry –’
    ‘When I specifically instructed Sir Lancelot Spratt to pass you.’
    ‘Dear Sir Lancelot,’ murmured Brenda Bristols, slipping gracefully back into bed. ‘The bear with the swansdown hug.’
    ‘You may claim a personal relationship with your surgeon,’ said the matron, ignoring Pip to jerk her patient forward and slam the pillows behind her back. ‘But I should like you to know that it cuts absolutely no ice whatever with me. Nor that you are a national figure, having your photograph with no clothes on displayed in every lorry-driver’s caff up and down the country.’
    ‘Charming, how you go round cheering up the patients, Matron,’ she said silkily.
    ‘I regard you simply as another female in my care. Like those of any age, any appearance and any profession in the Bertram Bunn Wing.’ The matron pounded the pillows savagely. ‘All are exactly the same to me. I am a dedicated nurse. Aren’t I, Pip?’
    ‘Then perhaps you’d

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