My boss scheduled a mandatory inservice yesterday, and I had to go into work on my day off. No, I wasn’t happy, but it gave me a break from housework, and I got the chance to catch up on some hospital gossip. When I walked on the unit, the meeting was about to start. The first order of business was to watch a video about pandemic flu. Look at the people on the book cover. I think they saw the same video. They look scared and they are running to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and nonperishable foods.

(Cue scary music from a 1950s B movie) World Wide Pandemic Flu: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You!

Sitting behind a desk we see Nurse Germicide, the hospital’s infection control nurse. She’s wearing her white uniform, her hair is pulled up in a bun, and her glasses are perched on her nose. She is the picture of decorum. Nurse Germicide is smiling as she reminds viewers that the pandemic flu is lurking in the shadows, and that it will kill millions of people around the world. She calmly reviews hospital policies involving crowd control, mass casualties, and how to care for patients while everyone around you is dropping like flies. She reassures hospital employees that there is no cause for panic or alarm because the hospital would be on lockdown when rioting breaks out in the streets. She also reminds staff to bring their own food and water from home because hospital supplies will quickly be depleted, and that we can’t depend on outside help from the government. At the end of the video Nurse Germicide says, “We all hope that there will never be an outbreak of pandemic flu, but if there is and thousands of people in our community begin to die, our hospital will be a beacon of hope during a time of despair.” (Cue cheery, happy music) The End.

We then welcomed the head of our security department to the staff meeting. He told us how to use a metal detector wand like the ones they use at the airports. Referring to the video, he said the wand would keep us safe when drug addicts break into the hospital during the riots. I said, “Excuse me, but a junkie would kill his own mother for a fix. How will the wand keep us safe?” He said that the wand would tell us where they were hiding their weapons, and that we could hit them over the head with the wand if they tired to hurt us. I said that if we were being robbed, we wouldn’t have to worry about finding their weapons—they would be waving them in our faces—and that when
someone breaks in looking for drugs, I will give him what he wants and send him on his way. He frowned at me. I don’t think he liked my grumpy attitude.

I know that the threat of pandemic flu is serious business, but must I hear about Armageddon on my day off? It makes me feel like I’m going into battle with Braveheart. Too bad he’s wearing the wrong kind of personal protective equipment. Hey Braveheart, where’s your mask and gown?