Dr Chan entered the examination room and closed the door. “So what brings you here today?” she asked abruptly, setting her open
laptop on the counter. The bus, Fiona felt like answering to help lighten the mood. Considering Dr Chan’s tone of voice, the standing-room-only waiting area, and the fact that the receptionist had gone for lunch, she decided against it. Fiona knew full well that a person in need of a stress leave did not have the upper hand and could not afford to take frivolous chances with levity. Fiona paused. Something she had learned to do at a ‘Think Before You Speak’ seminar a past employer sent her.
“Well, Dr Chan, lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and tired and I…”
“Everyone is feeling overwhelmed and tired,” Dr Chan interrupted.
Fiona noted that Dr Chan was definitely lacking in the empathy department. “I realize societies’ pressures affect us all, Dr Chan.
I’ve been nursing now for thirty-five years without taking a break. Except, of course, for my few vacation days each year. It’s taking
a toll on me. Nursing has never been easy and my current job is causing me unbearable stress. I’m having problems sleeping. I’m
overeating. My wine consumption has increased. I have difficulty concentrating.”
Humbling oneself before an openly rigid healthcare professional who obviously had her own thoughts about the weariness
of the world was humiliating. But Fiona wasn’t there for the world. She was there for herself. Fiona needed time. Time to rest. Time
to think. Time for her. Time was the only thing that could save her from a nervous breakdown. She could only get that time on
a prescribed, paid stress leave. Or by winning a lotto and quitting her job. Sitting up against the wall, doing a quick assessment of
her situation (as learned from an ‘Assess Your Situation So You Can Get It Right’ seminar)—the blood pressure cuff dangling from
the holder just to the right of her head and Dr Chan, perched on her stool, looking over at her—it seemed to Fiona her chances for
either were about equal.
“You’re lucky you’ve got vacation. Some people in this world never get such an opportunity,” Dr Chan answered. “There are
times I have had to cancel vacation plans because I have no one to cover for me. I can’t just get up and walk away.”
Fiona wondered just how her request for a stress leave had become about Dr Chan. However, arguing was not going to help
bolster her case. She continued. “I do realize, Dr Chan, that I’m lucky. But after almost three decades working, I need more than
a three-week vacation to recuperate. I’m doing the work of two nurses for the pay of one. A poorly paid one, I might add. I take
shorter lunch breaks. I leave late, and I still can’t catch up on my work. I don’t know if I can do it for much longer.” Fiona looked
down, her eyes searching the floor. (Looking pitiful was one of the tools in her get-a-stress-leave toolbox.) When she glanced up,
the look Dr Chan returned was that doctor’s look that says they don’t believe you but will let you continue as they wait for you to
screw up your story. Fiona quickly looked back down at the floor.
“Let’s see if there is anything in your lab results.”
Blood work results! Finally, they were getting down to something concrete that Dr Chan could zero in on. Sitting there, Fiona
hoped the news wasn’t devastating but could bolster the case for her stress leave. Something in the way of an easily cured iron
deficiency. An-elevated-yet-still-within-normal-range blood sugar. A cloudy urine. A mildly out-of-whack sodium level. All results easily remedied while not signalling imminent death.
“Hmmm,” Dr Chan said, looking over at Fiona.
Slowly, Fiona raised her eyes.
“You’re as healthy as a horse.”
Damn it all! When it came to procuring stress leave, it was never good news when a doctor brought up a cliché that included
an animal and its health. Fiona started to think she might need a stress leave to work on getting a stress leave.