Monday, September 07, 2009

Stirrings of Nursely Guilt

Well, in a mere 6 weeks I will be saying goodbye to my work as a Public Health Nurse and hitting the open road with my wife and dog (see our new blog for details).

So, what does it mean to eschew the trappings of the workaday world and leave the workforce, at least temporarily? What does it say about someone who works in public health and chooses to step out of that role just as H1N1 begins to rear its wintry head in our very direction? How selfish am I?

As I prepare to quit my job, leave the workaday world, pack up our cares and woes, gear up the RV and launch ourselves onto the highways and byways of America, I feel stirrings of nursely guilt that I am abandoning ship just as my country needs me the most.

Sure, we could have changed our plans. We could have chosen to spend yet another frosty winter in New England, slogging through the snow to save humanity. But my wife and I are making another choice. We are choosing to catapult our lives forward in a radical way, and doing something this radical has its price, and one price that I am currently paying is the feeling that I am breaking ranks when my services are most urgently needed.

Now, I am not one to think that no one else can do my job. There are plenty of capable nurses out there, and two of them are interviewing for my position in a week or so. Still, taking leave of my job at this historical time does indeed put extra stress on our local public health infrastructure, and I am concerned that my replacement will completely miss the frying pan as she or he falls directly into the fire of H1N1 and flu season. (Oh, the guilt.)

Still, I am thankful and appreciative that my boss is so evolved and has given me her (understandably reluctant) blessings to go on my merry way. And perhaps my worries are for nothing. Will H1N1 fall flat on its face? Will the massive vaccination campaign never materialize? Will this public health juggernaut never leave the launchpad? I actually feel that the H1N1 horse has already left the gate and we are rushing headlong into what will be a pretty intense flu season, made infinitely more complicated by twin vaccination campaigns (for seasonal flu and H1N1).

May my successor accept this challenge with grace and equanimity, and may I take leave of my position without guilt or remorse. The helper and healer within me cringes at ever shirking my nursely responsibilities, and leaving this job at this time in history is one of the hardest professional decisions I have ever made.


RehabNurse said...


I think of a quote often when I hear or read about stories like yours.

One of my classmates was wise beyond her years in high school when she chose this to go with her senior photo:

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are made for.

It's so true. Hope your new venture is a voyage to remember with enough smoothing sailing to enjoy it.

RehabNurse said...

Whoops...meant smooth, not smoothing!