Getting Sick as a Nurse

  1. I recently starting working at a hospital after working in a small GP office for five years, and it seems like a lot of my new coworkers call in sick on a regular basis. I'm just wondering if getting sick is a more common thing and something I should be prepared for. How often do you or others generally call-in sick on a given day?

    Thanks
    EE
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    About EdwardE

    Joined: Oct '18; Posts: 2; Likes: 4

    17 Comments

  3. by   NurseSpeedy
    Well, I've worked in both an office setting and a hospital setting and I will say that when I worked in hospital I was more likely to call in sick, not because I got sick more frequently, but 12 hours running around like a chicken with your head cut off is hard enough to do healthy-add a fever, chills, etc (flu), diarrhea into the mix it's almost impossible to make it through the day safely. I also noticed that once I was there, unless I was in need of the ER myself, I would have to make it the whole shift because I wouldn't have anyone to take over my assignment if my 100F fever went up to 103 or my coughing turned into audible wheezing. Nausea turning to vomiting did get me coverage for the last three hours once, but that's because I literally could not stop vomiting.

    In an office setting I may have the same symptoms but my job was less taxing physically on my body and if I got worse to the point I had to leave I could.

    That being said, I think I called out on average 2 days a year in the hospital, and it was because I was extremely sick...positive for the flu, after getting the vaccine and caring for an influenza patient at the hospital.
  4. by   Rose_Queen
    I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of calling out sick was really more vacation request was denied and mental health needs. Vacation denial seems to be common in units dealing with short staffing, and as one of my coworkers once put it "I'm not asking to have off, I'm telling you I won't be here this day". Then there's simply the burden of how much work is expected from one person, and sometimes it's just not there to be able to do it for the 4th/5th/6th day in a row.
  5. by   KelRN215
    I haven't called out sick in any of my last 3 jobs. I called out sick a handful of times over 5 years as a floor nurse but most of those reasons would not warrant me calling out at my current position. Why? Because I have the flexibility to work from home. If I had something that I thought was contagious and was scheduled to see any of my patients, I'd simply reschedule their appointments and work from home. A sprained ankle wouldn't sideline me at my current job because I'm not running around for 12 hours. And if I wanted to take a Friday off for a long weekend, I wouldn't worry that they would put me on the schedule anyway even though I made the request weeks in advance because I make my own schedule. I've never been denied a day off at any of my last 3 jobs either. I can easily get my work done in 4 days instead of 5 and then no one would even notice that I was off for 1 day.
  6. by   NurseSince2014
    I don't call in sick unless I'm truly ill, but I've noticed the same thing at my facility too. Nearly every day at least one person calls in. I work for a busy short-term rehab center and being short-staffed is common. Having extra work can lead to frustration and burnout, and I suspect that is contributing to many of the call-ins we receive. I wonder if that may be the case in your situation as well. If staff members are overwhelmed by the amount of work they are responsible for, they may just need a day or two to recover.
  7. by   EdwardE
    Thanks for the comments everyone. Personally, I'm OK if someone calls out even if there is a chance they're contagious. I think that's the right thing to do. But it does seem like everyone's a bit more stressed and overworked than at my last job having to cover shifts all the time. Management is talking about implementing a new policy, so I wasn't sure if this is something we're just facing or it's more common. Appreciate you sharing!

    EE
  8. by   CalicoKitty
    I typically only call out if pretty ill. I think I've called off for one "personal" day. (A day that I just didn't feel I could emotionally handle showing up for - usually after a bout of insomnia, and the idea of working with 1 hour sleep doesn't work). I have known people that want to make sure to "use" all of their sick days because they disappear at the end of the year and you lose them. The "use it or loose it" system prompts that kind of behavior. But, the employers gain all of those free hours of work, especially if they make it challenging to take a day off (blaming staff for lack of coverage).
  9. by   cleback
    I've worked places with limited/poorly managed staff that never approved vacation requests. Even though there were only 4 rns during the day/pm and 2 at night, there were call offs almost every day and nurses would be mandated to stay.

    The place I'm at is better staffed so call offs are fewer. But you can tell if there's been high census or just a heavier than normal acuity. Seems to be more call offs then.

    At the clinic, there seems to be more call offs. I think though that's because a lot of staff rely on childcare or school, so if the kid can't go because of illness/bad weather, that translates to a sick call. I imagine shift workers rely on other forms of childcare so that may not be as big of an issue.
  10. by   ICUnurse990
    Anecdotally, I'd say that a large percentage of sick calls in my unit are actually sick kid, grad school project is due, hungover, decided to leave a day early for vacation, "mental health day"/want a day off, etc. I work night shifts in an ICU, so I'm not sure how that compares with sick calls in a clinic.
  11. by   RNperdiem
    A lot of call outs are for sick children too. It depends on the demographics of your unit.
    Also, there is no room to take it easy for a physically active 12 hour shift requiring a high level of vigilance.
    My engineer husband can "coast" or work from home on a day he doesn't feel all that well with plans to catch up later, but nurses don't have that option.
    My hospital also has a well-staffed flex team to cover any absences.
  12. by   TriciaJ
    Quote from EdwardE
    Thanks for the comments everyone. Personally, I'm OK if someone calls out even if there is a chance they're contagious. I think that's the right thing to do. But it does seem like everyone's a bit more stressed and overworked than at my last job having to cover shifts all the time. Management is talking about implementing a new policy, so I wasn't sure if this is something we're just facing or it's more common. Appreciate you sharing!

    EE
    Short staffing and frequent call-outs are a self-perpetuating cycle. The only policy that will correct this is the policy where additional staff are hired and workloads are made manageable. What your admin likely has in mind is something along the line of "the beatings will continue until morale improves".
  13. by   RNKPCE
    I don't have enough fingers on my hands to count how many times I have been asked to trade or work extra for someone and I can't do it and then that person calls in sick that day. Most people manage to squeak by within the absenteeism policy. It's funny how the people who sound actually sick(coughing, laryngitis etc) express the most guilt about calling in sick.
  14. by   Davey Do
    sick-as-a-

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