This actually happened today:
Mini rant: I’ve got influenza A. My boss asked if I was still coming to work tomorrow. I was sent home yesterday after an hour, came home and slept all day and all night. Went to urgent care, they took one look at me and sent me to the ER where I received IV hydration and 2 breathing treatments, plus meds for my pleuritic pain. I texted my boss and let him know what was going on. He goes “we really need you to come in tomorrow because 3 people are out on vacation“. So, I guess I’m going in tomorrow, flu and all.
The supervisor in a healthcare environment told a nurse to come to work anyway, and expose her patients to Influenza A. These patients could be immunocompromised, frail elderly, vulnerable children, or pregnant women. Perhaps the strain is one not covered by the flu vaccine, and contagious to literally everyone. Either way, we are not at our best when we are ill. Patient care will suffer. You may make a medication error because of confusion secondary to hyperthermia. And all that.
Every single day, nurses are strongly ‘encouraged’ through guilt, restrictive attendance policies, and frank threats to come to work sick. This phenomenon is known as presenteeism. Great article here. I work for the federal government now, and get 12.5 days per year of sick time. When I worked in the private sector, I could have been written up for five absences in a year. We work in an environment which pretty well guarantees that we will be constantly exposed to nasty viruses, and missing five days out of 365 is considered serious enough for disciplinary action. Even if you pick up 2 shifts a week; Because helping out your understaffed department is never taken into consideration when you get a few absences. For that matter, with many employers if you call in sick on a Monday, drag yourself into work on Tuesday, and are just too sick to work on Wednesday, you are charged two ‘absences’ when you would have been charged one if you stayed home for three days in a row.
Because, healthcare organizations make total sense.
You, Nurse are not responsible for the failure of your organization to develop and implement a staffing plan for dangerously short-staffed periods. They can pay agency staff, period. Your employer demanding that you expose vulnerable patients to your plague is inappropriate and an extremely poor business practice.
You are not abandoning and/or neglecting your patients because you have the flu. You are a patient today. You drive a regular car and live in a regular house. You are not driving a Maserati and vacationing in Monaco. That is because you do not own the place. The people who own the place are responsible for the staffing level, and having a plan to staff the facility if absences happen. Also, perhaps they should not have approved vacation for three people during the same week. As the old saying goes, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an automatic emergency on my part”.
Stand together, direct patient care staff. We have to make these companies responsible for their own business, their own staffing, and their own conscience.
Here is a handout from the CDC to give to your employer the next time they tell you to come to work with the flu.
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