[ Page 4 ] / [ Previous page ]
Rattled by her student's decisions and demeanor -- ''It scares me that she's not more scared" -- M.J. briefly considered extending Julia's training once again. But Jeanne argued that Julia was getting more restless as the weeks dragged on.
''She's not 100 percent there, but she's safe enough to be on her own," she said.
Susan Tully, head nurse of the surgical ICU, agreed that M.J. was justified to be upset about Phyllis's suffering, but she concluded that Julia had not done anything that harmed the patient, just made a different judgment call.
M.J. reluctantly admitted that, like a ''mother duck," it was time to let go, and she returned to Phyllis's room to tell Julia.
''We think it's time for you to basically sink or swim," said M.J., practically spitting out the words as the two stood in the hall. ''I've taught you everything I can teach you. If you don't feel fine, speak now or forever hold your peace."
''I'm ready," Julia replied simply and unsmilingly, arms folded in front of her.
By 8 p.m., when the two nurses finished their last 13-hour day together, the anger of the afternoon had passed. But it was an awkward ending, hardly what Julia had imagined a few days earlier, when she bought a silk scarf at a tony shop on Newbury Street to thank M.J. Before becoming a nurse, Julia had trained new employees herself at an electronics plant in Israel. She knew how hard M.J. had worked, and she was grateful.
Julia also knew that she had tested M.J.'s patience, and that, more than once, M.J. had saved her from serious errors. But M.J.'s outburst about Phyllis had been humiliating. She had to summon all her self-control as she pulled the bag with M.J.'s scarf in it from behind her back.
M.J. was genuinely touched by Julia's offering, and, mortified by her ''unprofessional" outburst, she apologized for being so hard on her student.
''I hope I didn't seem like a bitch," M.J. said.
No, said Julia, although she agreed it was a rough way to finish their time together. ''That's all the more reason to give [the scarf] to you," she said. The two women smiled and hugged. One day, Julia acknowledged, she might look back on all this and laugh.
''But not for a few years," she said.