Jane Bates: Is it alright to contact a sick colleague?

A modern conundrum brings back memories from Jane Bates' student days

A modern conundrum brings back memories from Jane Bates' student days

Picture: iStock

Do I, or don’t I? There is always a dilemma when a colleague is off sick. Do we contact them, in the spirit of pastoral concern?

If we do, they might get the wrong end of the stick and feel they are being harassed, but the alternative is to leave them be and run the risk of appearing not to care.

My agonising over this issue stems from my student days. If we were ill, one of the elderly sisters from the sick room would telephone us, sometimes even turning up at the front door to ‘check we were all right’.

This is because they don’t trust us, we thought. Most of us were far too conscientious to pull a sickie, so it hurt to be under suspicion.

Samples of evidence

If there was any body fluid that could be excreted, coughed or retched up, a ‘sample’ was demanded which then had to be put in a pot and transported to the hospital.

It was like being tried by a kangaroo court: ‘Here is the evidence, m’lud, her sputum is clear and she is therefore swinging the lead. Dock her a month’s pay!’

I once had to travel across London with a stool sample (not my own) in a glass jar – it was the only time I have ever prayed for someone to pick my pocket. They wanted a sample and a sample is what they got.

Of course, we may have misread the situation. The sisters from the sick room were very sweet, so maybe they weren’t the flunkies in the pay of the hospital authorities we imagined them to be and were just being kind.

Perhaps they too were faced with the dilemma that always flummoxes me. Do I, or don’t I?

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

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