Nursing Voices

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sick Guilt

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.


Blogger Elaine said...

Oh my goodness, this is so true. Even back in my day, it was just the same. Mind you when I was working I would rather have someone off sick than someone who should have been off sick doing very little (and probaby infecting eferyone elso)

2:17 PM  
Blogger Minnesotablue said...

I don't know any Catholic that doesn't have a huge guilt complex. Add that to the unspoken " your making the work more difficult for your co workers " and you have the perfect combination for making you feel like a pile of crap!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Bev said...

I ended up spending a night in our ICU, (nothing serious-just a lab test run wrong). I felt so guilty for not being at work, I had my lap top with me and kept emailing the office and checking in on patients. Yessiree--- nursing guilt is as bad as Catholic guilt!

6:10 PM  
Blogger jaz said...

I can vouch for the Catholic penchant for guilt.

Also, the nurses / sisters association runs pretty deep.

If I weren't so run down myself, I would root around in my library for some witty historical context.

Get well soon.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Amrita said...

I got my education in a Cathilic school, I am not Catholic tho.They never had a guilt complex, it would have been better if they had.

The church and family I grew up in had a guilt complex, you had to think within the box otherwise you were guilty.

7:17 AM  
Blogger CrankyProf said...

I have the trifecta: Orthodox Catholic, Catholic education (thorough graduate degrees) and currently on faculty at a Catholic U.

The Guilt is writ large in gilt-illuminated lettering.

Hell, I had pre-ecclampsia, seized, and delivered the Butter Biscuit seven weeks early via section, and felt bad that I was three days late getting my grades in and papers back to students -- and then felt DOUBLY bad that I turned down a class that started two weeks after I delivered.

4:27 PM  
Blogger EDNurseasauras said...

The only thing worse than calling out (legitimately ill) on a weekend is calling out on Christmas. As a puppy nurse I had the gastro thing on Christmas morning. My flabbergasted mother couldn't understand that I had to DRAG myself to work to prove I wasn't suffering from excesssive Wassailing. I was promptly (and properly) sent home to my death bed where I belonged, secure in the knowledge that I wouldn't be dissed. Hope you are feelng better.

10:45 AM  

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