I am being disciplined. What Now?

by jadelpn 15,828 Views | 28 Comments Guide

There are many, many reasons why a nurse will find themselves in front of a manager. Some reasons more clear cut than others. Discipline proccesses are easily escalated to emotionally charged events. A few tips to try and keep your cool, keep you job, or move on to another area that will value your skills.

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    I am being disciplined. What Now?

    Every nurse at one time or another loathes the words "HR needs to see you" or "You need to go speak to the manager" even if you are well aware that you made a mistake, and that you are going to have to answer to it. There are some nurses who set themselves up to purposefully wreck havoc. This is not the norm. And if you are one of those nurses, you should seek help far outside a disciplinary process.

    Most nurses are full of good intentions and always doing right by their patients. But contrary to any hero worship, we are all human. And we are bound to make mistakes. Human error to policy and procedure loopholes, chances are in one's career, they may have at least one "talking to".

    Most facilities no longer have "merit based pay" however, still go through a process of evaluations each year. These are important. It outlines what you do really well, and may include places that you could improve. If you get a "needs improvement" it is in your benefit to perhaps focus one of your continuing education requirements on whatever subject matter this pertains to. Copy the certificate of completion, and have it added to your personnel file. This shows that you have made effort to improve on whatever "weakness" that you may have in practice.

    Each nurse should be mindful of the facility's policy on discipline. For the Union folk, well aware of the contract language regarding discipline. Really know your options and rights going in. This can only help you to negotiate. If you are a union facility, a delegate should accompany you. Don't hesitate to take notes during the process to assist you on staying focused on the issue. This should never be a character assasination. No matter how "wrong" you believe the content to be, do not say anything right away. When you have heard all of the content of their complaint, ask if you can take a moment to think about things before you respond. Take a moment, leave the room, look at your notes, and form and answer, as well as what you may be willing to do to change things. This could include (and for the most part should include) any practice changes that could prevent the mistake from occuring again to you or someone else.

    This is just one example. Some things are not clear cut, sometimes managment has some sort of ulterior motive that goes beyond just you. Sometimes you can assume, and maybe rightly so, that you are the "fall guy". But remember, a number of complaints are perceptions. And are subjective. So to get emotionally upset and lose control can only strengthen the perception. So as difficult as it is, deep breath.

    In the most extreme cases--diverson, patient abuse, major infractions, then you need to really take the information in, and get assistance outside of the HR office. With that being said, each and every nurse needs to have malpractice insurance. It will be the best $100 a year you spend. They are a wealth of information and assistance.

    If the decision is made to terminate your employment, negotiate what you can. Ask for a copy of your personel file. In it would have all of your accomplishments, what you have done well, and will only strengthen your search for future jobs.

    And finally, this is not reflective of one as a person. This is not an attack, although it may feel like one. Be sure to take a deep breath, look at the situation objectively, and don't ever believe that there's no options. The options may not be ideal, but in the end could be better than one could hope for initially.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 19, '13
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    jadelpn joined Nov '08 - from 'Massachusetts'. Age: 48 jadelpn has '25' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ER, Med Surg'. Posts: 3,306 Likes: 7,291; Learn more about jadelpn by visiting their allnursesPage


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    28 Comments so far...

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    Also helpful to know about the Weingarten Act and have witnesses to any interaction with management that might involve disciplinary action. Unfortunately it only applies to those belonging to unions.

    NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Saiderap and jadelpn like this.
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    Love this! Thanks Jade!!!! Very insightful.
    jadelpn likes this.
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    This was an Excellent article, I have been a RN for many years and it seems that write ups are more prominent where I work now. There is a lot of favoritism to other nurses as some of us just can't do anything right . it's so frustrating when sometimes you can just pull someone aside and ask this nurse what happened before making a formal write up. Everyday is learning and growing even after 25 years. I don't believe all instances need to be written up , but there are some that really do. I am just a frustrated Nurse at this time in my career. Thanks for the article.
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    I am not a nurse yet, but I am old enough to have been in the workforce for many years. Rarely does anyone get blindsided with a disciplinary action. Most of the time we know if we screwed up. What is wrong with accepting responsibility for what we have done and move on? Not often is someone fired for a "first offense", unless it is something major. In that case they deserve to be fired.

    I was really surprised at how lax hospital policies are on substance abuse when it comes to their health care members. If someone develops a drug problem and checks their self into rehab, that should be their one and only chance. If the problem is discovered through a drug test they should be fired immediately and license revoked for life.
    New_Man_Nurse likes this.
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    Quote from HM-8404
    I am not a nurse yet, but I am old enough to have been in the workforce for many years. Rarely does anyone get blindsided with a disciplinary action. Most of the time we know if we screwed up. What is wrong with accepting responsibility for what we have done and move on? Not often is someone fired for a "first offense", unless it is something major. In that case they deserve to be fired.

    I was really surprised at how lax hospital policies are on substance abuse when it comes to their health care members. If someone develops a drug problem and checks their self into rehab, that should be their one and only chance. If the problem is discovered through a drug test they should be fired immediately and license revoked for life.
    Not everyone deserves to be fired all the time. With that being said, this was a look at infractions that are not what one would consider "major" (meaning something that would get one immedietely fired in most cases)

    The unique thing about nursing is the ability of a process to dictate how a nurse practices, and sometimes the process fails to the detriement of the nurse. I know few nurses that do not take full responsibility for errors of their own making. The complexities of multi-patient with multi-needs takes a great deal of skill, and not bein super-human, can get complicated quickly.

    I would beg to differ regarding substance abuse. People do not set out to be addicts. Not all nurse addicts are diverters. There are positive drug tests for medications that a nurse is prescribed and takes per their MD accordingly. There are nurses who choose to indulge in recreational drugs on their own time. I am not saying that is right or wrong, however, only that it happens.

    It amazes me that we tend to judge an addict, however, a nurse comes in "hung over" (and lets face it, if one passes out drunk at 2am, not sure at 7am they are good to go) and doesn't have the same scrutiny. With that being said, there are programs in place to assure someone's sobriety should they choose that route. There are license restrictions. Maybe nursing is not for someone who is actively addicted, however, a life time license revocation is debatable.
    KimberlyRN89, RW23RN, NyteshiftLVN, and 1 other like this.
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    Quote from HM-8404
    I was really surprised at how lax hospital policies are on substance abuse when it comes to their health care members. If someone develops a drug problem and checks their self into rehab, that should be their one and only chance. If the problem is discovered through a drug test they should be fired immediately and license revoked for life.
    Wow I would say that is a bit harsh. License revoked for life? Maybe if they were stealing from the Pyxis and diverting it on the street...possession with intent is a pretty serious crime.
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    Quote from HM-8404
    Rarely does anyone get blindsided with a disciplinary action. .
    Unless you rock the boat. I wrote a letter to the director of nursing pointing out the danger to patients by assigning 5:1 in the step down unit. I was called to the directors office where they thanked me for my concern and oh, by the way, we have reviewed your charting for the past 6 months and there are a number of "discrepancies". The message was clear. Not only could they fire me, right to work state an all that entails, they could cause harm to my licensure if they wanted to call the board of nursing. In the field of nursing management has huge power and you are kidding yourself if you don't think you will have conflict at some point in your career. A nurses highest obligation is to their patient, not their employer. And the employers highest goal is to make a profit, safety be damned.
    New_Man_Nurse, monkeybug, kbrn2002, and 16 others like this.
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    Maybe someone here could advise me about how to handle slander in the workplace.

    When I do something wrong, I would prefer to face my own shortcomings and not blame other people for them. The problem arises when I have dealt with supervisors who lied about me and then accused me of lying ie. "I answer their lights and do things for their patients..." while the others sit at the counter and never say thank you and act as if they never watched me answer three lights in a row. What should I do with a DoN who says, "Oh no you don't."
    What is the proper response when I feel like a co-worker lied to the charge nurse and knew I would get my head bitten off and then confided to her that, "It's like screaming at the dog," like this is some sort of a joke. In this case, it seemed that they had changed the rules without telling me.
    When a co-worker asked, "What did you get in trouble for," I said, "I couldn't read their minds," and I was ready to start screaming (a thing I'm always afraid to do in my workplaces)
    Even when these people have a reputation for being trouble makers, it doesn't help much when you're the one getting the blame.
    I never had the nerve to come right strait out and say they're lying.
    brandy1017 likes this.
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    For those of us in RTW states ...yes you can get fired over slight infractions or no infraction at all. It happened to me working in a LTC. Right after the annual state survey the DON was looking to pass blame, IMO, for their poor ratings. She started "writing people up" for any and every minor issue she could find. However the way she would do it was very sneaky and she would not give you a chance to give your side of the issue. Long story short I got fired. But so did that DON by the corporate office......anyway I had 6 write ups. I filed unemployment and the adjudicator called me and asked me about them. I had reasonable explanations for what happened and I have very detailed descriptions about the DON's incompetence. So she ruled in my favor. I didn't use it because I did find another job.
    Xerxes801, Hoozdo, and brandy1017 like this.


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