He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling and knew he had to go back to work.
It wasn't that his current life was easy or that he especially wanted to go back to the proving ground of the wards, but he knew that going back was important - both financially and because he felt himself getting soft.
As his wife lay with her head on his chest, gently twitching as her breathing became deeper and slower, he looked up at the ceiling, his eyes burning like coals. He ran through permutations, likely complications he had been schooled in: hyperkalemia, hyponatremia, common analgesics, IV fluid prescriptions, the contents of the drawers of the crash trolley, urine output, FBC, biochem, coag, CVC management, venepuncture - the list rolled on and on in his mind.
His wife moaned in her sleep and turned over, freeing his arm and allowing him to bring both hands across his chest. Still staring up at the ceiling in the dark of their bedroom, his mind wandered on. He knew that going back to the wards meant going back to the places where people went sick, where the job ground you down to a fine powder that could be, and often was, blown under the door at the end of a shift. MAU, HAU, Acute Elderly Care, Respiratory Medicine, these places wouldn't be easy and he would earn every penny, every shift.
He realised he hadn't exhaled for what felt like a lifetime. Lying there in the dark, he had held his breath as his mind raced and ran over the likely issues that would arise on a Saturday night shift on an elderly care ward. And he wasn't scared. He needed the money, he was good at the job and for better or for worse, he missed the satisfaction of handing over his patients at the end of the shift and feeling like he had done something useful with the last 12 hours of his life.
He knew it was time to go back.