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Am I a coward for going on FMLA due to COVID?

Disasters   (128,980 Views | 92 Replies)

ML1376 has 3 years experience and specializes in ICU.

585 Profile Views; 23 Posts

Hello everyone. I am extremely conflicted in this decision. I work in an ICU which is now basically a COVID unit, on top of the PCU (the designated COVID unit) which we get pulled to regularly. It's no surprise there is an incomprehensible shortage of PPE, and shockingly bad backpedaling and safety recommendations from the CDC that had they made even 4 months ago would have cause a national uproar.

I have asthma and chronic bronchitis. Any little chest cold turns into full blown bronchitis for me. My girlfriend (we don't live together) has respiratory issues that require monthly injections of an immunosuppressant to manage. We haven't seen each other for almost a month now. Last week at this time, we had 1-2 two COVID patients.. at this point, all critical care units are overflowing and the safety precautions are terrible as they are everywhere else. The testing is awful with 4-6 day turnaround time. We get one N95 per shift no matter how many patients. They've increased nurse to patient ratio, which makes the one N95 even more unsafe. We can only wear it if the patient is undergoing aerosol producing procedures/treatments, otherwise, a standard surgical mask. I failed the fit test anyway. RN's are told to come in if exposed but asymptomatic, and if we are exposed to a positive patient, we only get tested if symptomatic. We have PAPRs but can only be used with positive patients due to lack of filter supply, but we won't know if they are positive until almost a week. To this day, I don't think they've been used yet. So by the time we CAN use them, it's pointless.. we've already been exposed. We are seeing younger patients with only a history of asthma or no real history crashing and burning.. going into ARDS and being intubated and placed in rotoprone beds. That's what scares me the most. Otherwise young healthy patients on the brink of death.

I really like my unit. I respect my manager, and my team, but I just don't feel safe and the anxiety is crushing. The healthcare system in general failed us. I feel it's not a matter of if but WHEN I will get this, and given my respiratory issues, will it take me out, or just hit me hard enough to cause permanent lung damage. That said, I was going to put my two weeks in but girlfriend suggested FMLA to buy some time to think about it.

I feel like I'm deserting my team when needed most. But I also didn't sign up to risk my life due to a comedy of errors, oversight, indifference, and/or just the never ending need for more profit by the powers that be. I feel what I'm doing is the logical, right, and safe move but can't get over this feeling of cowardliness and letting everyone down for doing it. However other times I feel I am being strong for giving up a well paying job with benefits for my physical/mental health and not allowing them to do me this way. Just looking for opinions one way or the other. Thank you and stay safe out there.

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Katie82 has 25 years experience and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, PH, CM.

582 Posts; 4,939 Profile Views

ICU might not be a safe place for someone with your health history. Unfortunately, this is not the last time this will be happening. Might be good idea to re-evaluate your future in the ICU. Human nature being what it is, you can probably expect some of your co-workers who stick it out to feel a little resentful. Hopefully they won't say anything out loud. Can't say what I would do. I also have asthma, and have had bouts of bronchitis that have lasted for months. I left the bedside many years ago, but I still come in contact with illness every day. You have to make the decision that is best for you, then just ride out the blowback if there is any.

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Gingerpup has 36 years experience and specializes in Hospital Employee Health.

1 Follower; 18 Posts; 53 Profile Views

If you feel unsafe and unprotected, you have every right to leave or go on FMLA. You do not need to give two weeks notice either. Things are going to get much worse in the next couple of weeks. People may judge, but that's not the end of the world. Your conflicted feelings are natural but think with your head and not your heart. Everyone gets to make up their minds here without judgment. You know if you did not have this pulmonary issue that you would be right there with everyone else. Accept that this is a limitation you happen to have, and that's simply how it is. Peace and love.

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20 Posts; 440 Profile Views

Hello,

I understand your feelings.

I had chemotherapy 2 years ago. I don't believe my immune system will sustain constant onslaught of the viral exposure working without proper PPEs. I am turning my 2 week notice in. I can afford to be out of work for a few months but I will need a job. I would like to take FMLA instead of resignation to figure things out (not sure if I am qualified and how to get it). I hope there will be the test for antibody available soon or they finally start mass producing PPEs.

Stay safe!

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kbrn2002 has 25 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis.

3,154 Posts; 30,317 Profile Views

With you underlying health conditions leaving that environment is proactive and hard to fault. Hopefully you are financially stable enough to ride out a time of not working. With all procedures and appointments that are not medically necessary being postponed or cancelled there's just not any nursing jobs in a low risk environment that I can think of.

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waufah has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in ICU,Tele,Interventional Radiology,PACU,Research.

1 Follower; 38 Posts; 1,744 Profile Views

10 hours ago, ML1376 said:

Hello everyone. I am extremely conflicted in this decision. I work in an ICU which is now basically a COVID unit, on top of the PCU (the designated COVID unit) which we get pulled to regularly. It's no surprise there is an incomprehensible shortage of PPE, and shockingly bad backpedaling and safety recommendations from the CDC that had they made even 4 months ago would have cause a national uproar.

I have asthma and chronic bronchitis. Any little chest cold turns into full blown bronchitis for me. My girlfriend (we don't live together) has respiratory issues that require monthly injections of an immunosuppressant to manage. We haven't seen each other for almost a month now. Last week at this time, we had 1-2 two COVID patients.. at this point, all critical care units are overflowing and the safety precautions are terrible as they are everywhere else. The testing is awful with 4-6 day turnaround time. We get one N95 per shift no matter how many patients. They've increased nurse to patient ratio, which makes the one N95 even more unsafe. We can only wear it if the patient is undergoing aerosol producing procedures/treatments, otherwise, a standard surgical mask. I failed the fit test anyway. RN's are told to come in if exposed but asymptomatic, and if we are exposed to a positive patient, we only get tested if symptomatic. We have PAPRs but can only be used with positive patients due to lack of filter supply, but we won't know if they are positive until almost a week. To this day, I don't think they've been used yet. So by the time we CAN use them, it's pointless.. we've already been exposed. We are seeing younger patients with only a history of asthma or no real history crashing and burning.. going into ARDS and being intubated and placed in rotoprone beds. That's what scares me the most. Otherwise young healthy patients on the brink of death.

I really like my unit. I respect my manager, and my team, but I just don't feel safe and the anxiety is crushing. The healthcare system in general failed us. I feel it's not a matter of if but WHEN I will get this, and given my respiratory issues, will it take me out, or just hit me hard enough to cause permanent lung damage. That said, I was going to put my two weeks in but girlfriend suggested FMLA to buy some time to think about it.

I feel like I'm deserting my team when needed most. But I also didn't sign up to risk my life due to a comedy of errors, oversight, indifference, and/or just the never ending need for more profit by the powers that be. I feel what I'm doing is the logical, right, and safe move but can't get over this feeling of cowardliness and letting everyone down for doing it. However other times I feel I am being strong for giving up a well paying job with benefits for my physical/mental health and not allowing them to do me this way. Just looking for opinions one way or the other. Thank you and stay safe out there.

Your health is what matters most. You need to do what is best for you,not what your coworkers might think. I am tired of people thinking that taking care of their health is somehow letting people down and they need approval? The reason managers are managers, is to manage situations like these. That is ensuring if you take time off,they find someone to take your place. If your work team cannot understand your reason for doing this, they are not your friends at all. I agree FMLA is a good option unti the storm passes. If you end up losing your job,there will be more better jobs ,with great benefits ahead. Use your time off to take care of you,and to revise your resume for your next adventure. When one door closes, another opens.

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Hoosier_RN has 27 years experience as a MSN and specializes in LTC, home health, hospice, ICU, ER, dialysis.

5 Followers; 2,032 Posts; 5,413 Profile Views

Remember that your FMLA may run out before this blows over. So make sure that you are working on a contingency plan while off, just in case.

Many nurses are looking at work from home options, while so many have already scooped them up. So be prepared that may not be an option. But you have to take care of you first

Edited by Hoosier_RN

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Tweety has 28 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

4 Followers; 29,025 Posts; 49,263 Profile Views

Sounds like you are doing what you need to do to keep yourself safe and alive.

I would like the poster above says take time to look at whether ICU is the right place for someone with such underlying health conditions.

All the best.

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Shauna Gilroy has 17 years experience.

1 Post; 116 Profile Views

I completely understand how you feel and no you are not a coward for thinking about your health in this crisis. I was in the same spot and too long ago, I have underlying health issues and am also 7 months pregnant. I had to step back and make a tough choice work and possibly catch this virus and possibly pass it to my unborn child or go on leave and risk being evicted and homeless. I chose my child's life.

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greener22 has 33 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in PACU.

17 Posts; 733 Profile Views

13 hours ago, ML1376 said:

Hello everyone. I am extremely conflicted in this decision. I work in an ICU which is now basically a COVID unit, on top of the PCU (the designated COVID unit) which we get pulled to regularly. It's no surprise there is an incomprehensible shortage of PPE, and shockingly bad backpedaling and safety recommendations from the CDC that had they made even 4 months ago would have cause a national uproar.

I have asthma and chronic bronchitis. Any little chest cold turns into full blown bronchitis for me. My girlfriend (we don't live together) has respiratory issues that require monthly injections of an immunosuppressant to manage. We haven't seen each other for almost a month now. Last week at this time, we had 1-2 two COVID patients.. at this point, all critical care units are overflowing and the safety precautions are terrible as they are everywhere else. The testing is awful with 4-6 day turnaround time. We get one N95 per shift no matter how many patients. They've increased nurse to patient ratio, which makes the one N95 even more unsafe. We can only wear it if the patient is undergoing aerosol producing procedures/treatments, otherwise, a standard surgical mask. I failed the fit test anyway. RN's are told to come in if exposed but asymptomatic, and if we are exposed to a positive patient, we only get tested if symptomatic. We have PAPRs but can only be used with positive patients due to lack of filter supply, but we won't know if they are positive until almost a week. To this day, I don't think they've been used yet. So by the time we CAN use them, it's pointless.. we've already been exposed. We are seeing younger patients with only a history of asthma or no real history crashing and burning.. going into ARDS and being intubated and placed in rotoprone beds. That's what scares me the most. Otherwise young healthy patients on the brink of death.

I really like my unit. I respect my manager, and my team, but I just don't feel safe and the anxiety is crushing. The healthcare system in general failed us. I feel it's not a matter of if but WHEN I will get this, and given my respiratory issues, will it take me out, or just hit me hard enough to cause permanent lung damage. That said, I was going to put my two weeks in but girlfriend suggested FMLA to buy some time to think about it.

I feel like I'm deserting my team when needed most. But I also didn't sign up to risk my life due to a comedy of errors, oversight, indifference, and/or just the never ending need for more profit by the powers that be. I feel what I'm doing is the logical, right, and safe move but can't get over this feeling of cowardliness and letting everyone down for doing it. However other times I feel I am being strong for giving up a well paying job with benefits for my physical/mental health and not allowing them to do me this way. Just looking for opinions one way or the other. Thank you and stay safe out there.

I would see if there is someplace else you can work for the time being and then maybe permanently. Given your health, ICU may not be the place for you. I too am immunocompromised due to chemotherapy. I Found a position at an outpatient clinic and for the time being I am doing telephone triage away from patients. I can appreciate the stress and anxiety of the situation and not being able to see your GF. Yes, you likely will face some resentment from your peers, whether they voice it or not. We need you. I would seek out other opportunities at this time rather than FMLA if possible.

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nancynurse12 has 37 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in PACU.

19 Posts; 1,037 Profile Views

Do what will keep you safe and allow you to sleep at night. if you can get fmla go for it. If your hospital is treated you as if you are expendable go.

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JohnyPapr has 7 years experience and specializes in Med Surg.

14 Posts; 54 Profile Views

No you are not a coward. Your health comes first. And remember. There is NO loyalty in nursing. You are just another body to your manager. Your “friends” at work will throw you under the bus when you need them the most to save their skin and political ambitions.

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