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

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by ML1376 ML1376 Member Nurse

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience.

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Guest757854

Guest757854

498 Posts

On 3/30/2020 at 1:09 PM, JohnyPapr said:

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.

100% All FACTS!

MeganMN

MeganMN

Specializes in Emergency Room. Has 16 years experience. 2 Articles; 89 Posts

I am on FMLA right now for the same. It is okay. Do not feel guilty. I had hoped that being high risk for complications would trigger the hospital to put me on phone triage or something, but I ended up having to use FMLA. I know that I will have to go back, but so am hoping that I can buy some time for better PPE situation, or to make a plan. As one of the doctors said to me, ' money does not matter if you are dead... ". I appreciate his candor.

ML1376

ML1376

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience. 25 Posts

They denied me FMLA being as high risk does not equal unable to work according to them. I am requesting reasonable accommodations but doubt anything will come of it. I would be phone doing phone triage for the time being. I pretty much figure it's done for me. If I go back, there will be ill-will among management and co-workers alike. And true indeed regarding the doctors advice. Seeing how lethally quick this virus is up close really got to me. I've seen many things in the unit, but nothing like this.. With mine and my girlfriends respiratory conditions coupled with lack of ppe and inadequate safety measures in place, each positive patient contact is like walking by a fire after doused with gasoline. I don't believe in tempting fate...

Gingerpup

Gingerpup

Specializes in Hospital Employee Health. Has 38 years experience. 18 Posts

Megan, did you need a MD note for the FMLA. How much time did they give you. ML l am so sorry they're not working with you. You are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation. Maybe they will accommodate you

kbrn2002, ADN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis. Has 20 years experience. 3,690 Posts

I am sorry but not surprised your employer is making it difficult for you to take some time off under FMLA. Sorry , but sadly not terribly surprised.

Some of the stories I've been reading in the news about how nurses and doctors are being treated during this are beyond horrible. There have been ER docs and nursing staff threatened and in a few cases actually being fired for speaking out to the press about the lack of PPE for staff. Some hospitals have released internal memo's clearly telling staff they are subject to discipline, up to and including termination for complaining about unsafe working conditions.

Then there is the nurse that was told by occupational health to take time off because she is symptomatic, keep in mind this is the hospital's current policy. Then she was told by that same hospital if she tests negative the hospital policies regarding call off's will be enforced. So she follows their policy and doesn't work but will be punished for not working if the COVID 19 test is negative! What in Hades sense does that make?

Even on a local level we are being affected. There are a couple of health care systems around here and both have recently announced a large round of lay offs, one several hundred employees. No nursing staff lay offs but a bunch of non medical staff suddenly find themselves unemployed. I am pretty sure they felt their jobs were pretty safe since they work for an essential business, turns out not so much.

It’s about the patients and your own conscience. Peace!

jlmcgrot

jlmcgrot

142 Posts

On 3/30/2020 at 8:23 PM, dinah77 said:

First of all we are all human first and foremost. Our only "part"in this crisis is to stay healthy and do our jobs to the best of our abilities. For the OP, his best means stepping down for awhile.

And btw, NOBODY signed up for a pandemic without proper PPE. That is insanity. I have two children, and I will NOT leave them without a mom for some kind of nonsense martyr "higher calling" rubbish.

Finally, you know what would happen if most nurses boycotted work right now? In big enough numbers to affect the system countrywide? I bet we'd see some PPE and hazard pay magically appear incredibly quickly

I wonder if people hold the same opinions for other lines of work? What did you feel about the Parkland officer that didn't attempt to stop the school shooting? I bet he didn't sign up for that.

I'm not even saying right or wrong one way or the other, but the job was always riskier in this regard, and I'm sure the OP struggled with the decision, as posting this would suggest. Everyone has to do what they feel is best for them but also will need to be willing to take whatever consequences come along with that. Obviously, you can't have all the medical staff bailing when a medical emergency happens.

Edited by jlmcgrot

CCTX

CCTX, BSN, RN

6 Posts

On 3/29/2020 at 10:52 PM, 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.

You did the right thing, reusing N95's is dangerous for us all, especially for you and others with chronic issues. 3 RN's have died from this already in NY. Stay safe and take care of yourself. We are playing Russian Roulette here.

dinah77

dinah77, ADN

Specializes in Tele, OB, public health. Has 8 years experience. 1 Article; 530 Posts

On 4/1/2020 at 12:22 PM, jlmcgrot said:

I wonder if people hold the same opinions for other lines of work? What did you feel about the Parkland officer that didn't attempt to stop the school shooting? I bet he didn't sign up for that.

I'm not even saying right or wrong one way or the other, but the job was always riskier in this regard, and I'm sure the OP struggled with the decision, as posting this would suggest. Everyone has to do what they feel is best for them but also will need to be willing to take whatever consequences come along with that. Obviously, you can't have all the medical staff bailing when a medical emergency happens.

Oh you clearly are taking a stance, despite your unwillingness to claim one. Please miss me with your “the job was always riskier in this regard”

We signed up for a job with adequate pay that in turn provided us adequate protection. We absolutely can have all the medical staff bailing- watch how quickly our PPE shows up then

ML1376

ML1376

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience. 25 Posts

12 hours ago, jlmcgrot said:

I wonder if people hold the same opinions for other lines of work? What did you feel about the Parkland officer that didn't attempt to stop the school shooting? I bet he didn't sign up for that.

At first your point hit me. But I then gave your comparison some thought and here’s my take. Sorry.. this is going to be long..

Parkland vs. Covid? Apples to oranges. Parkland was a one-time occurrence in an emergency situation. He had the necessary equipment to handle it. Regarding Covid, let’s take the Parkland scenario, except let’s drag it out over months.. Week 1: one shooter and a fully equipped guard with bullet proof vest, firearm, etc. Week 2: two-three shooters and school administration takes his vest away. Week 4: ten shooters, administration replaces gun with hunting knife and won’t give vest back due to ongoing supply shortages. And let’s talk about ongoing shortages.. The fact we have an unprecedented pandemic couldn’t have been foreseen. HOWEVER, it’s not as if there haven’t been warning signs in years prior that should have had hospitals, municipalities, states, and the government itself better prepared. Between epidemics, natural disasters, etc., there have been PLENTY of events that should have made us realize we need to be better prepared at all times.. not at the time of the disaster itself. Emergency planning 101 folks... Our government decided to go the opposite route having dismantled the Pandemic Task Force in 2018. CDC Timeline 2000s

Going along with this, let’s say Parkland school authorities received word that an attack was in the works and would be happening sometime in the next month or two. After receiving the warning, administrators downplay it, even saying "it’s nothing to worry about….” And then it happens.. and it wasn’t just one shooter, but dozens... Who’s fault is it then? The lone guards for being out-manned, outgunned and under-equipped? Or maybe the higher ups who didn’t take it seriously and did nothing both prior to, and after the warning to prepare themselves and protect the students? Why is it some local hospitals here were proactive and had plans in place.. connections made prior with local business to retrofit their businesses to make healthcare supplies and have deep staffing so they truly can protect all of their workers and send those home if need be or not ask them to come back if still exhibiting symptoms. When business and/or government operate on a razors edge at all times, it doesn’t take much for the whole system to crash.. truly a house of cards.

And let’s talk about nurses… Lately we’ve been getting “thank you for your service..” “we care about you and your safety” from management. Sure doesn’t feel that way. They care and protect us if possible, but if not, have no qualms throwing us in the fire for the “greater good”. They say how much they appreciate us in one breath, and in the next, threaten us with disciplinary action or termination if we speak up on an assignment that unsafe to us and/or the patient regarding potential Covid transmission. If quarantined, we have to use our own PTO.

And here’s another kicker showing how “appreciated” we are.. Health care providers are excluded from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. As stated: “the FFCRA says that the DOL can ‘issue regulations for good cause . . . to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders.’” Further stating “an employer of an employee who is a health care provider or an emergency responder can elect to exclude such employee from the application of the provisions in the amendments made [in] this Act.”

We are being told we “signed up for this” as if we’re military, but we don’t get any of their benefits.. We don’t get to retire in our fifties with a full pension, we don’t get lifetime benefits after retirement, we don’t get a GI bill.. hell, we don’t even get military discounts or special healthcare worker rates. We also don’t get hazard pay the way the police here are (time and a half).. or even dialysis nurses (Double time, who by the way are told if the hospital they are visiting doesn’t have proper PPE, they don’t have to accept the assignment).

Do I feel bad about my decision? Yes, and you’re post made me feel worse. But when I think about it, it’s because I feel I left my coworkers behind. If my health and safety were protected the way it should be (and is at other facilities), I’d be right there with them. Let me do my job safely and I’m there til the end. Throw me to the wolves and treat me like I’m expendable, not taking my health and those of my loved ones into account? I’m out.. Hopefully the next disaster (there will be others) will be prepared for better, but I doubt it.. because we gotta keep saving/making those dollars today and passing the buck. It’s just how business is done..

0.5GPA

0.5GPA, ADN, CNA

Specializes in New Grad 2020. 96 Posts

If you have respiratory health problems then you have a much higher chance of dying if you get this virus. I was reading the other day on Nbcnews about a nurse who had a history of asthma who recently died in NYC.

Long story short being concerned about your health is not cowardly it is smart. Like some of the others have mentioned maybe you should think about your future in ICU. This virus is not going anywhere soon.

11blade, RN

Specializes in OR. 51 Posts

A nurse in NY today describes conditions like that as a 'suicide mission'.

https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-jacobi-kelley-cabrera-personal-protective-nurse-doctor-20200401-sa5mpgvvqvhnzh7qwh2znnbo3m-story.html

It is not 'cowardly' to refuse to work in conditions that will get you, and others, killed. Reptilian-brained management have always tried to squeeze the most resources out of what they have to work with in the best of times, and that is for hospital profit. Most nurses have gone along with their shenanigans because you could expect to come home alive and whole every day to your family.

Now, management are trying to move the goal posts so far to compensate for their lack of integrity, they are ACTUALLY throwing nurses under the wheels of the 18 wheelers parked outside hospitals in NY (reefer units, temporary mortuary). Take care of yourself, because you can't count on any hospital to do that....