Friday, October 14, 2005

The Nurse Laid Low, Revisited

Can the caregiver ever really let go? That is the question today. Calling in sick for a day is intelligent and difficult. Calling in sick two days in a row is not only brilliant but excruciating.

First, there's the feelings of guilt for burdening one's colleagues with extra work. Second, there's the feeling that one is missing something, forgetting an appointment, abandoning needy patients in their hour of desperation. Once one gets over that, it's clear that: 1) the patients will survive and access other portals into the healthcare system as needed; 2) you will be called upon to cover for sick colleagues over the long winter months as well; and 3) the world does indeed keep turning when you are sick at home, tissues and tea bags flying every which way.

The body has a way of letting one know when it's time to rest and take a breather, and if one doesn't listen, often the body will force your hand by making it almost impossible to keep going without dire consequences. That is my predicament this week. I've been burning the candle at three ends for months. I've been feeling well (albeit receiving occasional signals that my body was trying to tell me something) while also knowing that I was running a risk of pushing too hard for too long. Although I took a week off over the summer and many long weekends, my schedule at work and at home has kept my motor running at high rpm's, and now is the time to do some basic maintenance and catching up on self-care.

Last night, feeling like the dedicated professor, I did indeed go to school to teach my class, cutting them loose an hour early. With my raw throat and foggy brain, it was a challenge to lecture on diabetes and the care of the patient in shock, but I actually think I did a good job. Being sick, I went slowly, chose my words judiciously, and felt like I got my points across clearly and concisely. Teaching can really be quite fun, even when one feels like death warmed over.

Many of us in the "caring professions" have difficulty caring for ourselves and saying no to work and its incessant demands. We all know that work will swallow us whole and spit us out in lovely little pieces if we're not careful, and it really is up to the individual to use the power of personal boundaries and eschew the gravitational pull of the workplace when under the duress of illness or burnout. While taking a sick day might temporarily inconvenience patients and coworkers alike, it also speaks volumes about how we value ourselves, setting a quiet but powerful example for others vis-a-vis the ability to care for oneself in a world that values productivity so highly.

Today, my productivity consists of how many cups of tea I can drink, how many naps I can manage to take (after the furnace guys are done making a bloody racket), and how many different ways I can think of to restfully entertain myself as my body recuperates and recovers its homeostasis once again. Now off to boil some more water.....
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