Have you ever been so sick that you think that you have to die first before you can start feeling better? I felt that way last weekend, and I thought that my nursing supervisor was going to cry when I told her that I wasn’t coming into work. She was very nice to me over the phone, but I knew what she was thinking:
“What?! You can’t call in. Oh please, God, no! (panic, panic, panic…..) I don’t have anyone who can replace you. I am so screwed.”
And of course I felt guilty about calling in sick, despite the fact that I was delirious from a fever, and I felt like I was about to take a trip to the morgue. It’s a capital offense in the nursing world to call in sick, especially on the weekend. Nurses start feeling guilty the moment we pick up the phone to inform our employer that we are on death’s door. I’ve often wondered about the origins of this guilt, and this answer came to me in my delirium, as I was lying in a semiconscious state in my bed.
I read somewhere that nursing has its roots in the Catholic Church, and that the first nurses were priests. Many of my Catholic friends who endured the rigors of a parochial education have told me that the Catholic Church teaches its parishioners to feel guilty about everything. I’m not Catholic, so I don’t know if that’s really true, but my friends don’t have any reason to lie to me. So following this line of logic, is it unreasonable to believe that our nursing culture is based on Catholic guilt? It’s just a thought, and, after all, nothing else makes sense. Why else would perfectly sane, highly educated individuals beat themselves up for taking care of themselves when they are ill? It goes against logic that people who care for others wouldn’t want to take care of themselves.
Perhaps the Pope will find this blog post, and will take steps to rectifying this perplexing situation. Your Holiness, please tell nurses that it’s OK to stay home when they are sick. I think a papal edict would be a nice touch. Let nurses know that they won’t be excommunicated from the nursing profession for taking care of themselves.