Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Indispensable Nurse

Why do we nurses feel indispensable? Why is calling in sick such an enormous undertaking fraught with misgiving and anxiety? What is it that makes it seem that the world will stop turning if we don't show up?

Being home sick today but taking calls from my coworkers as needed, I beg the question why absence from the office/unit/clinic can almost feel worse than just dragging one's tired tush to work in the first place. Nurses are reknown for not calling out when ill. I wonder which other industry equally creates such unequivocal martyrs.

On the practical side, it is understandable why not being able to come in to work can be a burden to others. Today, my trusty medical assistant had to call me six times in situations for which only I knew the resolution. In the course of my days, I promise patients prescriptions, referrals, test results, or other important matters which, in their lives, weigh heavily upon their minds until resolved or answered. Do I enjoy such alleged omnipotence? Au contraire! But how can one create one's job in which another could easily slip into one's chair and take over the controls without a thousand and one questions? Aside from an assembly line where each action is proscribed, defined, and reproducible, in matters of healthcare, the secrets to specific mysteries and patient-related conundrums are often held in a solitary mind. More fool we.

I have said before how even one day's absence from the workplace engenders reams of paper, piles of charts littering the desk, voicemail messages and email just waiting for an instant response upon one's return. Is there not a better definition of burnout than that?
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