New job. Got injured. Fired for unexcused absences during new hire probation period... what did I do wrong?

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Hey everyone.. I was recently let go from my new job in IR. I have about 5 years of experience (ICU and cardiac procedure care - pre/post/intra). Earlier this fall took a new job at another hospital. First week on the job, I experienced a pain I had never felt before - my upper shoulder and neck muscles began contracting out of the blue and continuously. It hurt bad…felt  like a "charley horse" in my shoulder and neck that just wouldn’t stop. I was escorted to from my unit to the ED to get checked out. After the ED PA and MDs saw me, a CT of my neck was ordered right away, and it showed that I had a C5-C6 protrusion.  I was given pain meds and a referral to ortho surgery. By the time I got out of the ED, my shift was over. I returned to work for my next scheduled shift.

I made an appointment as soon as I could with Ortho, on an off day. Ortho doc advised that I not do any sort of strenuous exercise (which was crushing... I am avid backpacker/hiker.. I bike, practice yoga, play tennis, weight lift, run, etc...) and now suddenly could not do anything but light stretching and walks, and was given an order to see PT 3x a week. Being new to the unit, I was transparent about the injury (not the details of the cause... just that it existed….as the cause of the injury was an assault that had happened a couple months back... by an angry family member who was not in their right state of mind… I shared that with the ED and the Ortho doc, but that feels a bit too sensitive to share with my new workplace people). 

Moving forward, I stayed flexible with scheduling. I remained cautious and mindful about my neck while I worked. But I still worked. Per preceptor, I was a hard worker. Even though I was not permitted to exercise, my doc said it was fine that I still worked. So, I continued working per usual: including pushing beds, transferring, carrying / shifting weighty tech machinery around, repositioning patients, wearing lead during procedures, etc… After each shift and on my off days, I focused on self care. I rescheduled and put off PT to accommodate my new job ever changing schedule... so that I be consistent and work with my preceptor, follow her schedule.. and also that I could complete orientation in a timely matter despite the missed days.  

Fast forward ~6 weeks I hurt my lower back at home… Annoying… something about not exercising for that long has made me clumsier I guess… but, NBD. There was a little bruising and a nagging sensation, otherwise felt that it was not that bad. Then the next day I worked ( on a particularly fast moving, short staffed, bustling & busy day ) I ended up hitting the exact same spot on my lower back (on patient bed rail). It hurt at first, but subsided. I shook it off and I kept working. Later that afternoon, I could feel the spot on my lower back swell .. and grow... and it became more painful. I asked a co-worker about it. She took a look and suggested that I get it checked out asap because it looked like a hematoma. I approached my manager, explained what happened, and went to the ED. CT of my lower back confirmed a hematoma. I was given a doctors note and was instructed to take it easy the next few days so that the area can heal and not get worse. I kept my manager updated via text and calling, and immediately provided a copy of the MD note. 

I returned to work a few days later as instructed. I was eager to get back to work and was feeling much better. Near the end of the shift that day, my manager pulled me into the office, and called HR. With me, my manager present, and HR on the phone, HR stated that as a new hire I am on probationary period, and during that that time, it is expected that employees be at their best. The number of unexcused absences has made them feel that I am not a good fit to work there anymore. Reasons were irrelevant... She said that at the end of the day, the number of unexcused absences was concerning, so much so that they felt they could no longer keep me as an employee. I was terminated. Just like that. 

I am still stunned... It's not like I caught a cold or didn't feel like coming to work... It's not like I just went to the ED on a wim and nothing was found... Is this really grounds for termination? Is there any way to fight this? I followed advice of co-workers, I followed MD instructions, I kept my manager updated, and thought that I was doing the best one possibly could in keeping that balance of being a diligent worker and caring for self. Should I have done something different? Is there anything that I can do now? I am really at a loss...

(note: I live and work in VA) 

MunoRN, RN

8,058 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 10 years experience.

First, I would look at the bright side which is that you found sooner than later that this is an employer you may not want to work for.

I think you did the best you could with an unfortunate series of events.  Employers tend to be hyper-reactive during the probationary period since their options often decrease once it's over.  Two injuries that result in missing work in a short period of time, even if that might be the only two times you would miss work in the next few years of working for them, is often enough for them to get twitchy and let you go.  

You took care of yourself, keep doing that.  You can get other jobs, not other bodies.  (And listen to your physical therapist, back surgeons - not so much)

 

Sour Lemon

5,016 Posts

Has 13 years experience.
1 hour ago, BeatsPerMinute said:

Hey everyone.. I was recently let go from my new job in IR. I have about 5 years of experience (ICU and cardiac procedure care - pre/post/intra). Earlier this fall took a new job at another hospital. First week on the job, I experienced a pain I had never felt before - my upper shoulder and neck muscles began contracting out of the blue and continuously. It hurt bad…felt  like a "charley horse" in my shoulder and neck that just wouldn’t stop. I was escorted to from my unit to the ED to get checked out. After the ED PA and MDs saw me, a CT of my neck was ordered right away, and it showed that I had a C5-C6 protrusion.  I was given pain meds and a referral to ortho surgery. By the time I got out of the ED, my shift was over. I returned to work for my next scheduled shift.

I made an appointment as soon as I could with Ortho, on an off day. Ortho doc advised that I not do any sort of strenuous exercise (which was crushing... I am avid backpacker/hiker.. I bike, practice yoga, play tennis, weight lift, run, etc...) and now suddenly could not do anything but light stretching and walks, and was given an order to see PT 3x a week. Being new to the unit, I was transparent about the injury (not the details of the cause... just that it existed….as the cause of the injury was an assault that had happened a couple months back... by an angry family member who was not in their right state of mind… I shared that with the ED and the Ortho doc, but that feels a bit too sensitive to share with my new workplace people). 

Moving forward, I stayed flexible with scheduling. I remained cautious and mindful about my neck while I worked. But I still worked. Per preceptor, I was a hard worker. Even though I was not permitted to exercise, my doc said it was fine that I still worked. So, I continued working per usual: including pushing beds, transferring, carrying / shifting weighty tech machinery around, repositioning patients, wearing lead during procedures, etc… After each shift and on my off days, I focused on self care. I rescheduled and put off PT to accommodate my new job ever changing schedule... so that I be consistent and work with my preceptor, follow her schedule.. and also that I could complete orientation in a timely matter despite the missed days.  

Fast forward ~6 weeks I hurt my lower back at home… Annoying… something about not exercising for that long has made me clumsier I guess… but, NBD. There was a little bruising and a nagging sensation, otherwise felt that it was not that bad. Then the next day I worked ( on a particularly fast moving, short staffed, bustling & busy day ) I ended up hitting the exact same spot on my lower back (on patient bed rail). It hurt at first, but subsided. I shook it off and I kept working. Later that afternoon, I could feel the spot on my lower back swell .. and grow... and it became more painful. I asked a co-worker about it. She took a look and suggested that I get it checked out asap because it looked like a hematoma. I approached my manager, explained what happened, and went to the ED. CT of my lower back confirmed a hematoma. I was given a doctors note and was instructed to take it easy the next few days so that the area can heal and not get worse. I kept my manager updated via text and calling, and immediately provided a copy of the MD note. 

I returned to work a few days later as instructed. I was eager to get back to work and was feeling much better. Near the end of the shift that day, my manager pulled me into the office, and called HR. With me, my manager present, and HR on the phone, HR stated that as a new hire I am on probationary period, and during that that time, it is expected that employees be at their best. The number of unexcused absences has made them feel that I am not a good fit to work there anymore. Reasons were irrelevant... She said that at the end of the day, the number of unexcused absences was concerning, so much so that they felt they could no longer keep me as an employee. I was terminated. Just like that. 

I am still stunned... It's not like I caught a cold or didn't feel like coming to work... It's not like I just went to the ED on a wim and nothing was found... Is this really grounds for termination? Is there any way to fight this? I followed advice of co-workers, I followed MD instructions, I kept my manager updated, and thought that I was doing the best one possibly could in keeping that balance of being a diligent worker and caring for self. Should I have done something different? Is there anything that I can do now? I am really at a loss...

(note: I live and work in VA) 

Two trips to the ER during working hours is a lot of drama for someone who's been on staff for less than two months. Fair or not, they were probably fearing a lot more of the same. They might have also heard (off the record) about the assault and family difficulties which suggest even more drama.

I don't think there's much you can do here, just like there wouldn't be much they could do if you decided to quit.

I do wish you well, and I hope you find something else soon. It sounds like you have a solid block of experience, so it shouldn't be too terribly difficult.

 

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 9 years experience.
43 minutes ago, Sour Lemon said:

Two trips to the ER during working hours is a lot of drama for someone who's been on staff for less than two months. Fair or not, they were probably fearing a lot more of the same. They might have also heard (off the record) about the assault and family difficulties which suggest even more drama.

I don't think there's much you can do here, just like there wouldn't be much they could do if you decided to quit.

I do wish you well, and I hope you find something else soon. It sounds like you have a solid block of experience, so it shouldn't be too terribly difficult.

 

I don't understand the drama part.. I mean, I get it in a way.... Newbie here has two ED visits in less than two months... Yes, that can send off some alarm bells and doesn't look good on paper... but if those ED visits are for legit reasons? Like, that happens... that is life sometimes. Without MD notes I am not cleared to return to work anyway (per policy) so those were required to provide.... Also, only the MD's, my best friend, and SO are aware of my complicated family dynamics. That's not something I broadcast... I don't like to spend too much time thinking about it and especially don't like to spend too much time talking about it..  

Fearing too much of the same doesn't make a whole lotta sense either considering I spent my last 5 years in nursing at the same hospital... 

My preceptor liked me - poured herself into training me. She was tough but intentional, and with 30+ years of experience, a wealth of knowledge. We did weekly check ins. She said she doesn't like to give too many compliments, but saw that I worked hard, was eager to learn, attentive, and avoided gossip like the plague. She was just annoyed when I got too tunnel visioned or stuck in my head LOL.. I liked her.

I asked my manager several times for feedback as well. No concerns were shared with me. Suddenly, am pulled into the office. And fired. Again, very, very surprised and don't understand what happened... 

Sorry if I sound like a broken record. Still processing and trying to make some sense of it all. I do have some solid experience under my belt but in the grand scheme of things, I am still a baby nurse. Hardest part is feeling like I don't get the politics, how over my head this experience is, how weird / wrong the conversation with HR and manager felt (lotsa subject changing, repeating points without budging - even if it borderlined not making any sense or had any relevance to my questions, complete avoidance in  giving direct and honest answers)... Feeling like Im not grasping how the whole nurse world business really works sorta thing ? if that makes sense? Not sure what I learned from this ... 

 

Specializes in psychiatric.

Unfortunately if you live in a right to work state they can let you go for any reason. They may not like the color you wore or the way you looked. Doesn't matter. Unfortunately I had the same thing happen. They don't let you know anything that is problematic until the hammer falls. No Union No Protection. And you have to be with the company long enough to even have union coverage which happened to me also. Get yourself better and try to find out why you are having so much problems with your back. You may be pushing yourself too hard with the strain at work on your back and then the strain placed by your activities. May have to make a decision which is more important. 

Wuzzie

4,895 Posts

3 hours ago, prunejuiceandbps said:

Unfortunately if you live in a right to work state they can let you go for any reason.

The correct term is "at will employment" and you're right, unfortunately it's a thing. It's supposed to be beneficial both to the employer and the employee allowing a no fault separation of the relationship but I've only seen it benefit employers who, in the absence of a union, like to bring the hammer down on  unsuspecting staff that don't follow the party line or wore the wrong shoes one day. OP, I'm sorry this happened to you. Many of us have been in similar situations and it's awful. 

FTR: "Right to work" is a term used in reference to organizations with unionized employees. It allows someone to work there without actually joining the union. 

Davey Do

1 Article; 10,187 Posts

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years). Has 44 years experience.
6 hours ago, BeatsPerMinute said:

 Should I have done something different? Is there anything that I can do now? I am really at a loss...

I empathize with your situation, BPM, and say that you prudently did what you could. However, "...sometimes the bear, well, he eats you".

Good luck and the very best to you.

Wuzzie

4,895 Posts

Davey, you certainly have a way with words.?

JBMmom, MSN, NP

4 Articles; 2,348 Posts

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC. Has 11 years experience.

So sorry to hear what happened to you. As others have mentioned, while it may appear unfair, during the probationary period they really need no reason at all to let someone go. While your injuries were indeed legitimate (hope you're feeling better), they may have extrapolated that frequency to mean they would have an employee that needs coverage too often when on staff. There's really not much else you could have done, except maybe wait until your shifts were over to go the ED, but hindsight is 20/20. Wishing you the best of luck with finding a better fit for you!

Emergent, RN

2 Articles; 4,062 Posts

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

Maybe you should seek work in a setting that won't aggravate the problems that were discovered.

Even though it seems very unfair, if I were an employer I might get spooked by a new hire having a physical problem that will interfere with them doing the job. That's why they have the cushion of the probationary. To see if it's going to be a good fit.

Hospital administrators definitely aren't a charity. Their primary focus is not tender loving care of employees. That's just the nuts and bolts of the situation.

Specializes in Peds ED. Has 12 years experience.

I think that expecting life not to happen during probation is unreasonable. While I was on orientation with my new job, my grandmother died, and two weeks later my alcoholic brother was bottoming out and sending suicidal texts. My manager accommodated flexible scheduling to allow me to deal with two back to back family emergencies with only words of concern and support.

I’m sorry they fired you but I think that’s a sign of a place that doesn’t recognize the humanity of its employees and I wouldn’t blame yourself. 

NurseBlaq

1,756 Posts

In all of this, my only questions are did you file a worker's comp claim for the assault, and did you press charges on the family member that assaulted you?

You work in an at-will state added to the fact you came to them with a previous on the job injury, of which they have had to take a loss for in a short period of time (ie missed work).

It's a mess what's happening to you but the employer is protecting their interest. They don't want to be held liable for another facility's WC claim. Plus, they're taking a loss by having an employee on the schedule who they can't depend on so they need to fill that vacancy with an employee they know will be available. Again, not saying it's right, just that's how HR sees it. They're protecting their interests.