Theresa Puckett, a practicing nurse who also is a professor with a PhD in nursing, had been working PRN at a hospital for 5 years. When she found herself experiencing chills, achiness and “feeling miserable” for 2 days, she went to an urgent care where she was given a prescription Oseltamivir and provided with a note to excuse her absence from work.
Soon, she was feeling a little better and, despite having “horrible coughing fits,” she decided to go to work. Her charge nurse encouraged her to leave work early after she had given her HS meds and clocked out at 9:30 p.m.
She was scheduled to work 2 days later and, again, went to work even though she was still feeling ill. The following day, she went to her Nurse Practitioner and was diagnosed with a secondary sinus infection and given a prescription for an antibiotic as well as another note to be off work.
The hospital’s attendance policy for PRN staff states that the staff may be terminated after 2 unexcused absences during a 60-day period. Even though she had 2 notes from different physicians that were provided to her work, she was terminated even though the policy is permissive that they “may be” terminated.
It is a shame that a hospital would choose to lose such an excellent staff member, who stays on the top of her practice by working clinicals even though her main job was as a nursing professor with 5 years of loyal service to that facility all because they would not consider the 2 excuse notes verifying that she was suffering from the flu.
Nurses are not like factory workers. We are taking care of sick people and to create a culture where a nurse feels obligated to come in when she is sick is against everything that health care industry stands for in improving wellness and promoting health.
Nurses should not feel guilty when they are ill and need to call in sick. I can understand that hospitals need reliable staff but, when a member is legitimately sick and cannot perform the services that are required of them, it’s not fair to the nurse, her patients and her coworkers.
I am outraged by this event and am bothered when any hospital has such a draconian policy in place. One hospital in Indianapolis had such a policy but, fortunately, changed it after lengthy protests from its staff.
What is the policy at your facility? Do you feel compelled to work when you are sick? Do you feel guilty because your coworkers may have a heavier load? Please leave your comments below.