Holiday Sick Calls From Self-Centered Staff

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Has 16 years experience.

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As of noon today, the staffing office says 13 nurses and nurses aids have called off sick for night shift. There will probably be more by the afternoon cutoff. Though staff also call after the cutoff time. They also come to work and leave a couple hours into the shift, deciding they don't feel well enough after all.

The last group are the worst because they cause a hospital-wide scramble of nurses changing patient assignments right before the main night shift med pass. Sometimes nurses end up switching to other units to cover the sudden absence. There are about five nurses in this hospital that do it often enough for others to notice. 

It is the Monday of Thanksgiving week. As it goes every year, the number of sick calls around holidays, school vacations, etc. seems to go up and up. Thirteen staff in our hospital equals every nurse in the Telemetry Unit calling off - 10 floor nurses, 2 break/resource nurses, and the charge nurse. It is not a big enough hospital to have that many staff call off in one shift.

So now, for those of us who trudge in who are also tired of Covid and tired of working short handed, we will probably not get any breaks. There is no way we will have break nurses with 13 calling off. The charge nurses will probably have assignments on the med-surg units. Who knows if this will be the night the hospital goes out of ratio due to not enough nurses to care for the patients, despite a dozen travelers in house. 

I think these nurses calling off, who are not really sick, are jerks. I know there are nurses on this website that blame administration for all of this. I can't. What level of professional calls off at this rate? It is ridiculous. They make it even worse for the rest of us. We would have had a decent night if 10 of those staff showed up. 

When I came to nursing, I had no idea I would work with so many self-centered individuals who would leave their coworkers hanging because they can't be bothered to come to work, and don't understand the need to balance a schedule. 

SunDazed, BSN, RN

Has 16 years experience.

Net total called in before cutoff bell is 14 nurses/nursing aids. With one additional removed by employee health for possible Covid. Weeeeee!

 

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 19 years experience.

Where I work you work any holiday that falls with your regular schedule. If you call off you work the next two weekends that you were scheduled to be off.

Still sounds like a culture problem, not a problem of individuals. My company has a ‘points’ system— lose too many to tardies or call outs, you’re out. As long as you stay under the limit your sick time is yours to use. It’s childish, but it works. You literally can’t keep your job if you habitually call out more than once every 4 months. This makes it a generally pleasant place. Everyone gets their full lunch break, so you’re less likely to fall ill due to exhaustion, anyway. 

Of course, if you fire people for absenteeism, you have to be able to hire more... and that means offering competitive wages and good working conditions. It’s a complex problem, which I do realize COVID hasn’t helped.

I’m sorry you’re stuck picking up the slack.

morelostthanfound, BSN

Specializes in CVOR/General Surgery. Has 29 years experience.

8 hours ago, RN&run said:

Still sounds like a culture problem, not a problem of individuals. My company has a ‘points’ system— lose too many to tardies or call outs, you’re out. As long as you stay under the limit your sick time is yours to use. It’s childish, but it works. You literally can’t keep your job if you habitually call out more than once every 4 months. 

     I've worked in many parts of the country and this is true except for some West Coast, unionized facilities that I have been at.  I know staff that consistently call off once a week or once every two weeks and have done so for years.  Even without FMLA, there is little an employer can do to correct this behavior but especially in the time of Covid.

 

SunDazed, BSN, RN

Has 16 years experience.

14 minutes ago, morelostthanfound said:

     I've worked in many parts of the country and this is true except for some West Coast, unionized facilities that I have been at.  I know staff that consistently call off once a week or once every two weeks and have done so for years.  Even without FMLA, there is little an employer can do to correct this behavior but especially in the time of Covid.

 

Thank you for the confirmation of a difference from other places. I am a midwesterner transplant to Cali. I can't believe work is optional on a shift to shift basis for some.

I think California law indicates there are limited reasons why people can use sick call at the last minute, but it is such a fuzzy area and the union will fight any attempts to dismiss someone... not worth it.

A former ED manager told me a story about an ED nurse who called off ALL THE TIME, and even most of the nurses in the ED wanted her to go. Her name on the schedule meant they would likely end up short staffed. The union fought it fiercely. So despite 50 people wanting her gone, the union backed the one person who couldn't care less if anyone needed her to come to work.

Jeckrn1, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Operating room, ER, Home Health. Has 22 years experience.

I have worked at places that if you call off the shift before or after the holiday you do not get holiday pay for the holiday. 

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in school nurse. Has 29 years experience.

On 11/23/2021 at 10:19 AM, SunDazed said:

Thank you for the confirmation of a difference from other places. I am a midwesterner transplant to Cali. I can't believe work is optional on a shift to shift basis for some.

I think California law indicates there are limited reasons why people can use sick call at the last minute, but it is such a fuzzy area and the union will fight any attempts to dismiss someone... not worth it.

A former ED manager told me a story about an ED nurse who called off ALL THE TIME, and even most of the nurses in the ED wanted her to go. Her name on the schedule meant they would likely end up short staffed. The union fought it fiercely. So despite 50 people wanting her gone, the union backed the one person who couldn't care less if anyone needed her to come to work.

You see, this gives unions a bad name. They should WANT obviously bad eggs like this to be gone. On the other hand, I've heard of situations in which the management can't be bothered to create the appropriate paper trail to get rid of somebody (with cause) per the contract's provisions...

 

SunDazed, BSN, RN

Has 16 years experience.

8 hours ago, Jedrnurse said:

You see, this gives unions a bad name. They should WANT obviously bad eggs like this to be gone. On the other hand, I've heard of situations in which the management can't be bothered to create the appropriate paper trail to get rid of somebody (with cause) per the contract's provisions...

 

The union here does not have as much power as it would like. The last strike vote did not even get 75% turn out. The result was no strike. There are a lot of mixed emotions about what the union is standing up for in the negotiations. Union engagement is low. There are not meetings that are open to everyone. One hospital I was at had a monthly union meeting on site that anyone could attend. There would be updates on issues, etc. 

Just before Covid hit the union was putting a lot of energy into fighting a standard uniform color. Each time the union rep sends out a survey to find out what nurses want, the questions are hard to answer. The questions are very biased and generally negative. Granted, the hospital was not operationalizing the change very well. It has yet to make an official change.

Some of the nurses would have preferred that level of energy be put into enforcing the current contract and making sure nurses were getting meal breaks and rest breaks. Assignment despite objections (ADOs) were filled out every time the units were not staffed to grid, usually short NAs and break nurses. Nothing seemed to be getting done. The union rarely updates the union members on the concerns submitted by ADO.

In the specific case I mentioned the ED manager was flummoxed by the fierce way the union defended the nurse's use of her PTO and sick call. The manager explained all the processes in trying to cross t's and dot I's. She is someone who tries to be reasonable and fair. The union dug in though, and this nurse kept her job. 

SunDazed, BSN, RN

Has 16 years experience.

On 11/22/2021 at 10:07 PM, RN&run said:

Still sounds like a culture problem, not a problem of individuals. My company has a ‘points’ system— lose too many to tardies or call outs, you’re out. As long as you stay under the limit your sick time is yours to use. It’s childish, but it works. You literally can’t keep your job if you habitually call out more than once every 4 months. This makes it a generally pleasant place. Everyone gets their full lunch break, so you’re less likely to fall ill due to exhaustion, anyway. 

I think it is a culture problem, for sure. The kind of rules you speak of were used in the past, until the kin care law was passed. They did help with absenteeism, but obviously did not cause a permanent culture shift.  The kin care law is one of those well intentioned laws that has a dark side to it. I wish those rules could be brought back. 

10 hours ago, Jeckrn1 said:

I have worked at places that if you call off the shift before or after the holiday you do not get holiday pay for the holiday. 

This is my hospital.  A few years ago, one nurse lost her holiday pay for calling out on a surrounding shift, despite finding another nurse to cover it for her.  That was the first I'd heard of the rule; I made sure to read my contract a little better after that.

 

On 11/24/2021 at 11:36 AM, Jedrnurse said:

You see, this gives unions a bad name. They should WANT obviously bad eggs like this to be gone. On the other hand, I've heard of situations in which the management can't be bothered to create the appropriate paper trail to get rid of somebody (with cause) per the contract's provisions...

 

Exactly!  Unions aren't magic. They can't keep someone from being fired for cause.  All they can do is ensure the employer follows due process. If management wants someone gone, they need to do their jobs and document the necessary evidence to make that happen. Unions are made up of other employees, and they usually do want the lazy and incompetent coworkers gone.  But unions fight because they want the process to be followed (which usually involves warnings and improvement plans), so the dismissal is fair and the system remains intact so good workers can't be unfairly terminated by a manager with a grudge. It annoys me to no end when people blame unions for the shortcomings of lazy management.