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My work is pressuring me to come in when I'm sick, please advise me

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DogLady DogLady (New) New Student

I'm a nursing student in Canada, I have a job as a home care HCA this Summer for a private company. I have one main client I care for a few days per week and a second I care for once weekly. I developed a cough, sore throat, and runny nose 2 days ago. Following my province's public health rules I called my work to say I could not come in, and I would get tested for COVID asap. I got tested yesterday, the results should be back within the next few days.

I think I did the right thing. I hate calling in sick and I never do it. I've only been caring for my clients for 3 weeks but I feel responsible for them. I feel like I'm abandoning them.

What makes things worse is my company gave me a lot of attitude when I called them initially. They have kept me on the work schedule. I got a text today asking how I was doing, (I am totally fine - I think I have a cold) and then asking if I could come in tomorrow since I'm feeling fine.

I'm legally required to self-quarantine until I get a negative test result. I know my clients may not get their usual level of care but I am trying to keep them safe! They would likely die if they contracted COVID.

I'm just looking for reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. It seems like my company does not have any back-up caregivers for situations like this. I'm being made to feel terrible for calling in sick. This job is making me feel like home care is the wild west - I had to buy my own masks and gloves until I was finally provided with masks. Any thoughts and advice for the babiest of baby nurses would be much appreciated.

Okay, welcome to nursing and one of many Catch-22's of the job.

So you haven't been at that workplace for long huh? Your words seem idealistic and innocent. We've all been there.

If you are sick and don't have sick-time, or if your organization explicitly says you must come in and then you don't anyway, expect to lose your job ( yeah, be fired).

Once you've been working someplace for a while you might get a little more leeway.

My advice? Go to work if you need the job.

Edit: You know what, I'm in Florida so consider that in my words. Workers' rights here are if you don't like it, well then have the right to work someplace else.

Edited by NunNurseCat

LovingPeds, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Clinical Pediatrics; Maternal-Child Educator. Has 11 years experience.

You are doing the right thing. You are right that if you do have a mild case of COVID-19 and one of your patients catches it from you or any other potential illness that you may have, they are at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. If you are being tested, you need to follow your country's guidelines for self-isolation for medical staff at least until you are cleared as negative.

That said, you may end up losing your job over this. You may have to face a hard potential consequence despite the fact that you are doing the right thing. We can't make that decision for you either way. It is also your employers' responsibility to have the shifts covered if their staff is unavailable due to illness. There is no excuse not to have a contingency plan for staff illness - especially in a time of pandemic when you know illness can occur.

My philosophy has always been to follow my conscience and what I felt was right for my patient. If my employer disagreed with that, especially when it comes to patient safety and health concerns, then it told me that I was not at the right place of employment. My employer may pay me, but by law, my responsibility is first to my patient and then to my employer.

Edited by LovingPeds

18 minutes ago, LovingPeds said:

My philosophy has always been to follow my conscience and what I felt was right for my patient. If my employer disagreed with that, especially when it comes to patient safety and health concerns, then it told me that I was not at the right place of employment. My employer may pay me, but by law, my responsibility is first to my patient and then to my employer.

Thank you that’s really helpful to hear. It’s hard to do the right thing when I feel like I’m leaving my clients in the lurch. You might be right about not being at the right place of employment. Thank you for your wise words!

LovingPeds, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Clinical Pediatrics; Maternal-Child Educator. Has 11 years experience.

1 minute ago, DogLady said:

Thank you that’s really helpful to hear. It’s hard to do the right thing when I feel like I’m leaving my clients in the lurch. You might be right about not being at the right place of employment. Thank you for your wise words!

It may feel that way now, but I am sure that none of your clients or their families would feel comfortable having you there if they knew you had pending results for COVID-19 and symptoms that concerned you enough to be tested. You aren't leaving them in the lurch. You're looking out for their safety.

Monalisa

Specializes in Hospice. Has 6 years experience.

It is your responsibility to not go into work sick...period. It is your employers responsibility to provide coverage for you and keep patients safe especially in the middle of a pandemic and while your awaiting results of Covid 19 test. Honestly, my blood boils when reading or hearing..employer got an "attitude" when calling out sick. I was an aide for several years before becoming a nurse. If the scheduler thinks that she can intimidate you into just working she/he will do it and why?? Because they don't want to make their job more difficult by having to look further for coverage. The only thing you need to do right now is wait for your test results. You are doing the right and responsible thing by not going into work sick. Good for you for knowing the symptoms and getting tested immediately. These are the actions of a responsible and astute health care worker. Don't ever be afraid of losing your job over doing the right thing. Your employer is being irresponsible, and truthfully why would you want to work for a company that doesn't value the health and safety of their staff and/or patients? And, not to have the basic PPE such as gloves?? There has to be better options out there for you. Stay strong. if possible, keep us posted on your test results.

Hi,

you followed health guidance therefore your actions have placed patient safety as a priority. The issues with ppe are global and community care is often seen as a Cinderella service which is wrong. Keep your spirits up.

Regards

Yvonne

Uroboros, APRN

Specializes in Advanced Practice Critical Care and Family Nursing. Has 17 years experience.

Now I'm fairly uninformed on Canadian employment law, but I do believe the idea of "at-will" does not exist there, as mentioned initially by NunNurseCat in Florida and the state law there. This is fairly common in the US, especially in the southern states. Which is part of why I think we see weaker nursing lobbying in the regions. Just my lay perspective.

My best advice is to know the employment law, and I think it differs from province to province in Canada. But from what little I've read the legislation is highly in favor of the individual employee, since some 90% of the system is regulated by protective labor associations. Good nursing conscience is a given, but when combined with soundly informed judgement, now that's someone to be reckoned with. Wish you the best.

calwen, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg Tele. Has 24 years experience.

Your employer’s main concern is their business and profit margins. It will never be you. Only you can take of yourself and protect your license. Nobody else. You will come up across employers and supervisors who will ask you to do things you shouldn’t do, like perform tasks you are not adequately trained in. Or in your case, work when you are sick and possibly expose vulnerable patients to a highly contagious virus. They don’t care, because they want you to make their lives easier. And guess what, you don’t have to. You are doing the right thing- start learning to take care of yourself now, because no one else will.

Take care of yourself.

I don't really know how to advise you. I think if you have masks and gloves and if you feel well enough to work, you should probably go to work. That was "probably", as in just my opinion.

You, of course, must decide ultimately. Do you have a fever? Respiratory or other major system symptoms?

employers will always try to make you feel rotten for calling off.

Edited by Kooky Korky

Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

On 5/8/2020 at 5:45 PM, DogLady said:

I'm legally required to self-quarantine until I get a negative test result.

It seems like my company does not have any back-up caregivers for situations like this.

Yes you’re doing the right thing.... see your first comment. You are required to stay home and for good reason.

As for your second comment, a failure to plan on their part doesn’t make an emergency on your part. Had they gotten said back-up HCAs they wouldn’t be in such a pickle now would they?

Feel better!

Silverdragon102, BSN

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC. Has 33 years experience.

You are following rules set up by Public Health. Inform your employer that once you have your results and if they are negative you will be resuming work but until then you are self isolating

lifelearningrn, BSN, RN

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 7 years experience.

On 5/8/2020 at 6:32 PM, NunNurseCat said:

My advice? Go to work if you need the job.

I couldn't disagree with this advice more. She stated she's legally obligated to self-quarantine until her test comes back. There no wiggle room there. We know that many have very mild illnesses.

Stay home until you're cleared by your MD.

BlessYourHeartt

Specializes in adult ICU. Has 13 years experience.

You are doing the right thing. Hope you feel better soon. I'll be very honest: jobs like yours are typically easy to get, so I wouldn't worry about getting fired but would focus on protecting yourself and your vulnerable patients. Your employer has quite the nerve to expect employees to furnish their own PPE and to work sick. In fact, if they pressure you to do something that goes against public health and/or your MD advice in your community, I would report them.

Edited by BlessYourHeartt

23 hours ago, lifelearningrn said:

I couldn't disagree with this advice more. She stated she's legally obligated to self-quarantine until her test comes back. There no wiggle room there. We know that many have very mild illnesses.

Stay home until you're cleared by your MD.

I followed up my comment with another for the OP to consider that I live in Florida. That is how things are here. I'm glad those Canadian workers with protections can do what is right. I do wish [lifelearning] that you read my follow up post rather than conveniently filtering it out.

In the past I endured serious financial hardship and stress when I took a stand, didn't go in sick a second day in a row, and was terminated. Furthermore I did not qualify for unemployment because the employer countered that I was warned that I may be terminated if I did not come in.

While enduring said hardship I thought to myself, "Gee, wasn't that nice to make a stand?"

Furthermore I had to explain why I lost that job to potential employers in interviews , it did't help sell me. Nurse managers don't want a revolutionary and a friend of mine who was a manager back then said it's a red flag to them because the interviewing managers don't know, truly, what happened... only what I say happened.

Are you getting the picture yet guys? A bit clearer I hope because I lived it and, really, it was terrible! We live in some strange times, I know, but it's been this way for a while as far as this topic goes (here, in my state of Florida).

So, Canadians and those living in lands that make sense: don't go to work sick.

For those of us living in places where we can actually lose our jobs (yes despite corporate policies saying don't come in sick!): you'd better go over your bills and obligations first, and make dang good and sure you can afford to be out of work because you may pay a serious price for taking a stand.

Edited by NunNurseCat