Can nurses be forced to work during pandemic

  1. I'm wondering-can the government force nurses to work during an emergency outbreak such as a pandemic?
  2. Visit nursey04 profile page

    About nursey04

    Joined: May '03; Posts: 7; Likes: 14


  3. by   azhiker96
    I don't know if there are current laws on the books but the government could certainly pass a law if they felt it was needed. I did find this page with a draft report that discusses expectations in the event of a pandemic.
  4. by   lpnflorida
    I do not know if the government can pass anything , but I can tell you most hospitals would kick us to the curb if we refused to work.

    Many of us have loved ones at home who would most likely be direly sick with swine flu if they caught it. My loved one is over 66 with chronic health conditions. Yet I will work, as while I love him. My needs do not supercede the needs of others. Plus, I am not independently weathly and need to work.
  5. by   azhiker96
    Good point, the hospital would not pay me if I did not work. That seems fair though. Also, if my loved ones were direly sick I would want them at the hospital where there are meds, monitors, and equipment rather than at home.
  6. by   Multicollinearity
    In Hong Kong, during the SARS epidemic when people were dying, government officials quarantined hospitals and locked everyone inside. No going in or out for days. That is a way of forcing staff to work.
  7. by   nerdtonurse?
    What the goverment can do depends on the country. I'm more worried about what the state BON might decide. They come up with some pretty "whaaaaa?" kinda stuff, and I could see them saying if we didn't work as scheduled, we were guilty of abandonment and threatening us with losing our licenses as a way to keep us on the job.
  8. by   azhiker96
    Maybe the OP can clarify which government/country. Currently in my state, my license would not be at risk for calling off from work. For me to be charged with abandonment I'd have to accept report first. I think the US would be more likely to use public humiliation and appeals to our ethics before they'd try to force us to work. It's good to know your nurse practice act and be familiar with your state BON rules and opinions.
  9. by   nursey04
    Thanks for all the replies. I am referring to the US-currently work/live in Massachusetts. I work in an outpatient clinic currently, but also fear being forced-or even more so as other posters have pointed out "coearced"-into working in a different type of setting to care for the acutely ill if there were to become a need. Believe me, I am a nurse and do realize the duty to care for the sick and the ethical/moral issues surrounding this. My personal biggest fear with this is that I'm a single mom of 2 kids and if schools/daycares close-I may have no one else to watch my children.
  10. by   indigo girl
    Quote from nursey04

    My personal biggest fear with this is that I'm a single mom of 2 kids and if schools/daycares close-I may have no one else to watch my children.
    That is a big concern for many parents.Yesterday in the HHS/CDC/HSS webcast, Secretary Sebelius said that parents should make plans ahead time for other arrangements for child care just in case. I wondered how many single parents were going to struggle with that issue. My best friend called me from Philadelphia last night worried about her little boy's school closing, and how she was going to cope if it did. She gets no sick time from her job, and is just barely getting by financially as it is.
  11. by   lamazeteacher
    Quote from multicollinearity
    In Hong Kong, during the SARS epidemic when people were dying, government officials quarantined hospitals and locked everyone inside. No going in or out for days. That is a way of forcing staff to work.
    It's also a way to prevent unexposed staff from having to work.........

    My take on this, is that only a member of the armed forces can be forced to do that which can be harmful to them (like be a target for the enemy). Therefore, their medical personnel could be effectively ordered to report to work.

    I remember someone in the Navy saying that if someone attempts suicide, they're prosecuted for their attempt to destroy government property!
  12. by   nerdtonurse?
    If you want to read some scary, scary stuff, go read "The Great Influenza" -- it's about the 1918 outbreak, but has a couple of chapters on what the goverment did regarding the outbreak. They pretty much tossed out the constitution and most of the amendments...

    I don't remember the exact quote, but a wise person once said, "in a crisis, the individual can rise to unknown levels of bravery. And a group of people will descend into unknown levels of savagery." If this got really, REALLY bad, I'm afraid that's exactly what would happen. If you've got enough tamiflu for 18% of the population in the USA, what's the other 82% going to do if they think that "their" doses or the the doses for their children are going to someone they think doesn't deserve it...? These are the same folks who go off the freakin' chain when I tell them our hospital carries Pepsi products, not Coke....yeah, they're going to be understanding....
  13. by   azhiker96
    Okay, I apologize if this link has been posted somewhere else. You can look up your state's plan online.

    I find it interesting that my state, Arizona, includes my family in the plan.
    Ensure hospital workers and their immediate families receive prophylaxis and/or vaccination as appropriate.
    I didn't see any plans for force nurses to work but including my family in the plan helps eliminate a reason why I might not want to work.
  14. by   azhiker96
    There is a guideline from the feds,

    It doesn't spell out what would be done to force people to work, only that under a declared emergency they may need to change the rules a bit. I bolded and underlined the key bits.

    Key Legal and Ethical Issues. The Presidential declaration of a national emergency or disaster, along with the declaration of a public health emergency by the Secretary of HHS, may be the basis for the Secretary to invoke a waiver authority under the Social Security Act, which permits increased regulatory flexibility for home treatment and patient transfers. It is important for the home health care sector to anticipate legal concerns that may emerge during a declared public health emergency and begin to consider potential solutions to these issues in advance.
    Legal parameters differ from State to State and may change during a declared emergency. Home health care agencies should consult their State and local governments, professional organizations, or local pandemic influenza planners to learn about laws and regulations that may affect their operations and staff during an influenza pandemic.

    • Allocation of scarce resources. Determine with local planners how to use resources most efficiently and under which priority the agency will be allocated specific patient treatment resources.
    • Scope of practice. Determine whether scope of practice restrictions set forth by the State or political subdivision will be extended to allow, for example, more home health care workers to provide vaccinations or medications.
    • Addressing medical personnel licensure requirements. Determine appropriate legal approaches to adapting normal licensing requirements for volunteer health personnel to more readily support declared emergencies.
    • Reimbursement. Learn who, if anyone, is legally required to pay for services during an emergency.
    • Human resource policies. Policies will need to deal effectively with issues such as failure to report to work.
    • Workers compensation. Determine whether workers compensation carriers will provide the same protections that they provide under standard conditions.
    • Patient release policies. Learn what policies are for releasing patients from standard hospital care to home-based care.
    • Protections for at-risk populations. Learn what enhanced protections are for at-risk populations.
    • Health care worker liability protections. Learn the agency's liability for harms that arise to patients from home health care services during emergencies
    • Patient abandonment. Determine under which circumstances a home health care provider's failure to treat existing patients may result in penalties.
    Last edit by azhiker96 on May 1, '09 : Reason: clarity