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Jane Bates: Why do nurses feel a need to work when they’re ill?

Going to work with a painful tooth abscess leaves Jane Bates smiling through gritted teeth, but with her conscience intact

Going to work with a painful tooth abscess leaves Jane Bates smiling through gritted teeth, but with her conscience intact


Picture: iStock

The pain was so bad I had an overwhelming urge to bang my head against a wall. I had a tooth abscess, and the only analgesics I could take that didn’t make me feel like a disembodied alien were having little effect.

I had to go to work. Was there any way my throbbing jaw and I could stay at home, without me feeling I was letting people down? How could I appease my conscience?

Maybe, with all those nasty bugs, I was a risk to others. But no – I was on antibiotics so deemed fit to work by Infection Control. Perhaps I could plead that, aesthetically, I was in no state to see patients? It was a front tooth, and my left cheek was so swollen it looked like I had run out midway through Botox treatment.

Self-inflicted pressure

Half my face looked at least ten years younger than the other side – unfortunately it was the side with the toothache, destined to deflate to its wrinkly self once I had recovered – and I was unable to smile because it was just too painful.

Surely that was a reason to limp off home to bed? A nurse needs to beam reassuringly at least five times a minute, I could hardly hold up emoji instead.

The pressure to work was self-inflicted, I must add. My colleagues were almost ordering me to go off sick. I did stay though, and went home with conscience intact but kicking myself for being so stupid. Sometimes we just have to accept that we are not invincible.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

 

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