forced to work when sick?

  1. Hey everyone,

    I work in a busy emergency department. Over the past few months we've been short staffed and over capacity (almost daily).

    Anyways, I felt unwell with niggling abdominal pain when I woke up this morning but not to the point where I felt I should call in sick (i cant remember the last time i called in sick). About 3 hours into my shift the pain gradually become worse... then severe along with nausea. I took some meds thinking it was gastritis and would settle but it did not. I was in the middle of doing an assessment and had to excuse myself. I went straight to my charge nurse and asked to go home. I was literally in tears and guarding my abdo. Without any change of expression my charge nurse looked at our roster and bluntly said, "we have no one to cover you, unfortunately you're going to have to stay until the end of your shift because its not fair on the rest of the team". Talk about a guilt trip.

    I felt quite shocked and helpless. I then became stressed and anxious thinking to myself.. how the hell am I am meant to work when I can hardly walk due to the pain. I walked away from my charge nurse (very gingerly) to compose myself and prep myself to go back and finish the assessment. It wasn't until a co-worker asked if I was okay that I burst into tears. My co-worker ended up bringing me into a side room, triaging me and telling our charge nurse that I wasn't able to work. I did not want to be triaged (i have never been a patient in hospital ever before). I felt i could go home,take some good analgesia in fetal position and ride it out until i was able to see my own doctor but I felt I had no choice since i was being made to stay and work.

    I ended up getting a full work up including IV morphine to settle the pain.

    I am seeking advice. Do I e-mail the charge nurse manager to express my disappointment with the staffing levels and how that charge nurse handled the situation? I loathe confrontation and I'm not comfortable approaching that particular charge nurse one on one. Or do I need to understand from that charge nurses side... being under pressure with short staff? I sometimes over analyse situations and wonder if it could have been a personal issue with me (I recently reduced my hours to part-time because I got a new job on the side).
    Lastly, that particular charge nurse is responsible for the roster and has been very flexible with my hours surrounding my new side job and I would hate to cause a stir since she's the one who approves the shift swaps. She's been very good to me with giving me the shifts/hours I want.
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  2. 19 Comments

  3. by   Davey Do
    Quote from Skylar86
    I am seeking advice. Do I e-mail the charge nurse manager to express my disappointment with the staffing levels and how that charge nurse handled the situation? I loathe confrontation and I'm not comfortable approaching that particular charge nurse one on one. Or do I need to understand from that charge nurses side... being under pressure with short staff?
    Ask yourself what you want to get out of this situation; whether it is to express concern over the situations in hopes a change may take place, or if you just need to be heard and acknowledged.

    Examine your own expectations of what you want to receive in response and expect nothing.

    Pessimists are never disappointed.
  4. by   canoehead
    I doubt the system will change, even though it should.

    Prepare yourself for the situation so you can deal with it if it happens again. Notify the charge nurse you are sick, she refuses to let you leave. State something to the effect of "I am reporting to you that I physically cannot continue my shift, I need to go home. I can give you xxxx time (15 minutes?) to figure something out but I need to give report to someone." Wait, then notify the nurse above her, your boss, supervisor, on call manager. Give them time to pick a someone to get report. Make notes of the times you notify people, and let them know you're going to be in the bathroom, or trying to finish your notes, or lying on the floor under the desk- just so they know you haven't walked off quite yet. Then hand the charge a written report, and go.

    The amount of time you wait for them to get their act together depends on the situation. Two different boards of nursing have advised me that two hours is plenty, but in some situations you just cant last that long. Write to your board, get their take on the situation, and share it with your manager and coworkers! Maybe you could offer to give an inservice, now that would be a positive reaction to a crappy situation.
  5. by   hppygr8ful
    Quote from Davey Do
    Pessimists are never disappointed.
    I want to put This on a T-Shirt!

    Hppy
  6. by   hppygr8ful
    t-shirt-png
  7. by   canoehead
    You need a crankier font.
  8. by   kp2016
    I would advise you to tread carefully here. It sounds like you have until now enjoyed a good relationship with this manager who is in control of your schedule.
    Fair or unfair the reality of nursing is unless you are confident that you are well enough to complete your shift you should stay home. Once you have arrived it's unlikely they will be willing to send you home as finding cover for you in the middle of a shift is often impossible.
  9. by   JKL33
    Quote from kp2016
    Once you have arrived it's unlikely they will be willing to send you home as finding cover for you in the middle of a shift is often impossible.
    I have no dog in this fight, but how does that work? What would they have done if there was a call-in? Whatever it is, that's what they should do when an employee is truly too sick to continue working.

    What am I missing?
  10. by   kcochrane
    Quote from JKL33
    I have no dog in this fight, but how does that work? What would they have done if there was a call-in? Whatever it is, that's what they should do when an employee is truly too sick to continue working.

    What am I missing?
    I agree that if you are really too sick to continue, you should be allowed to go home. I get a lot of employees that come in sick thinking that it looks better for them when they need to go home after a few hours or even a few minutes. Clearly that wasn't the deal in this case. It is more likely that we can find someone to work if someone calls in.....maybe even get someone to stay. Once the shift starts it is really almost impossible to find someone.
  11. by   sallyrnrrt
    I was the charge nurse in a small rural hospital ER, I became ill, spiked 103 temp, my team pulled .
    Together covered for me whilayed on ER gunnery...... My saintly, and can not say enough About our staff house supv. 7p-7a......patient care comes first, she ask me to give her less than hour, and she could relieve me.....she actually showed up and took over...so I could go home...... There are many compassionate, caring and flexible as that house supervisor
  12. by   adventure_rn
    Quote from sallyrnrrt
    I was the charge nurse in a small rural hospital ER, I became ill, spiked 103 temp, my team pulled .
    Together covered for me whilayed on ER gunnery...... My saintly, and can not say enough About our staff house supv. 7p-7a......patient care comes first, she ask me to give her less than hour, and she could relieve me.....she actually showed up and took over...so I could go home...... There are many compassionate, caring and flexible as that house supervisor
    That's amazing.

    Meanwhile, I guess I'm surprised that there aren't people on call? If the unit has been so chronically short-staffed that it can't tolerate a nurse getting sick, it seems like something has got to give. What happens when the sick nurse who has been told by her charge that she can't leave vomits on a patient, or falls and injures herself and the patient, and becomes dizzy during an IV start and ends up with a needle stick? So much potential for serious consequences.
  13. by   Kooky Korky
    I wouldn't do anything. You want to keep a good relationship with this nurse. She saw for herself that you wound up being a patient in your own ER.

    You can't blame her for not wanting to be known as being easy when a nurse is asking to go home during the shift.

    As for asking - if you were sick, you should not have asked. You should have told her you were in severe pain and could not continue caring for anyone
    else at that point.

    Are you feeling better? Nosy here - what was it?
  14. by   Julius Seizure
    Quote from kcochrane
    I agree that if you are really too sick to continue, you should be allowed to go home. I get a lot of employees that come in sick thinking that it looks better for them when they need to go home after a few hours or even a few minutes. Clearly that wasn't the deal in this case. It is more likely that we can find someone to work if someone calls in.....maybe even get someone to stay. Once the shift starts it is really almost impossible to find someone.
    This is all well and good, except that in many hospitals, you are punished for calling in less than 2 (or more) hours prior to your shift. What if you are still asleep then? Out of luck.

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