With hospitals being run by corporations, their critical focus is on the bottom line. We see that more and more nurses, after remaining loyal and dedicated workers at the same institution for years, are finding themselves being terminated once they reach the top of the pay scale.
There are two recent cases in which nurses sued their respective employers and received a substantial verdict. It’s a shame that it had to come to this and that nurses had to resort to litigation. It is difficult to win this type of case. Most States are “employment at will” which means you can be terminated for any cause and, sometimes, even for no reason at all. These cases came under an exception to the “at will” clause.
Roberto Landon, an L.P.N. with 25 years of experience, believed that another L.P.N. who was caring for a patient did not provide proper care. Landon believed that the patient died of a hypoglycemic event, but Landon noted that the nurse who was caring for this patient failed to even monitor the patient’s blood sugar.
Shortly after Landon made his views of this nurse known, the employer then wrote him up for 2 technical infractions, followed by a third after which time he was terminated. Landon believed he was let go in retaliation for reporting the hospital’s alleged cover up of the patient’s death.
He took the matter to court and the jury subsequently agreed with an award to Landon more than $1.2-million!
In the other matter, L.P.N. Linda Boly, had worked at the same hospital for 34 years receiving excellent evaluations along the way. The hospital, which had not been replacing nurses who left the unit, required the remaining nurses to work even harder compensating for the short-staffing.
Ms. Boly was required to conduct 8 to 10 pre-operative evaluations every day, a situation for which there are no national standards governing such a practice. Her supervisor once remarked, “As we get older, we all slow down.” Linda thought of herself as an efficient, hardworking nurse and so was surprised to learn she had been terminated.
Linda found an attorney who assisted her in a claim for age discrimination. The jury sided with Ms. Boly and provided a jury award of more than $3-million.
While these situations ended favorably and these nurses received verdicts with financial awards, it was not so easy. These types of cases are extremely difficult to pursue and such an attempt required a very experienced employment law attorney.
The issue these people faced was “how do we protect our self?”
If you see the handwriting on the wall, leave! It is easier to find another job than to get another license.
Most of the nurses I represent have no idea what is in their employment file. They always seem to be shocked when they see what the file actually contains. It is wise to get copies of everything you can in the event you should you be written up. Keep copies of each and every one of your employment evaluations. This will not only help you in finding another job but also will assist you if you ever are called before the Board.
I applaud these two nurses for speaking up against poor care as well as in court. I’m sure it wasn’t easy in these cases but in order to reclaim our profession, we have to speak up and support each other.
Suzanne Horkan says
In today’s world, unfortunately, these situations are very real.
I shared with you in the past that I found it necessary to leave my place of employment after 40 years of service despite not being ready to quit bedside nursing. The newest CNO believed in “managing them out” when staff concerns arose rather than mentor them down a better path. I couldn’t live under that type of mentality. Had I not left on my own accord, a situation would have been created to walk me out the door. I had too much invested to allow that to happen.
Staff were becoming afraid to call in sick, discipline occurred for any minor incident, employees felt no one had their back except for managers such as myself and despite the facility values promoted, administration did not walk the talk. They were rude and disrespectful.
Staff continue to be disciplined without ability to give an explanation, then walked out the door after decades of commitment.
I went to the Board with my concerns but nothing changed…
Interesting that when trying to find the names of the board of directors for the facility, they are no where to be found except for a few in relation to the Foundation…
Thank you for your efforts to make nurses aware.
Jeannie Dworniczek says
I have seen similar events over the years and it truly saddens me. As I celebrated my 64 years of life on this earth, I will next celebrate 44 years as a nurse this June. I still am working as a nurse; not at the bedside but in a valuable position where I still evaluate patients for appropriate level of care. I interact daily with the bedside nurse and provide reassurance and even education (keep them safe in their practice). I feel at this point in my career, I remain silent when it comes to salary or events that place my job at risk. I find ways to bring forward questionable care with a focus on the patient and the investigation would reveal the involved parties. I have had only one increase in the past 3 or more years and it was pennies. I do not bring up salary as I know I could NOT find another job elsewhere at this age. Age discrimination? It does exit even at the point of hire. Why do they have your date of birth on the application? Why is the year you graduated from high school needed? Do the math. They know and of course the position was filled by another candidate.
I am not ready to retire as I love being a nurse, love working and contributing to life, love people. But it always is in the back of my mind that I could be gone; replaced by a younger nurse with a lower salary.
theresa ellingsen says
Every time I see “the handwriting on the wall” I hear all kinds of stories about how every where else in healthcare is just as bad or worse. Leaving isn’t always better.