There are let’s just say…unwritten policies (and punishments)…when it comes to calling out sick—especially in the hospital environment.
First, now you’re on your managers’/charge nurses’ radar (and not in a good way) because it’s an inconveniece—depending on how much notice you’ve given them they now have to scramble to find someone to fill your slot. Then there’s the fear of being given a write-up for an unexcused or unscheduled absence—which could come back to bite you in the arse during your performance reviews. And now that you’re on management’s proverbial sh*t list you now run of the risk being snubbed, given “harder” assignments or a heavier load than others (and being left to flounder), or other forms of horizontal hostility—even possibly being passed over for promotions and perks.
So now staff just come to work sick. If you’re sick enough according to managements’ standards (which may mean damn near dying) then they’ll have to send you home. And if management sends you home, you’ll avoid a write-up, be seen as a devoted staff member willing to “take one for the team” coming to work come hell or highwater—plus you’ll still get paid for the day/night. So staff now cover their @sses by putting the ball in managements’ court.
But at what cost? Not only are you not at your best (which can be a recipe for disaster in patient care), but it creates the potential for others to get whatever the hell cootie it is that YOU have! And oftentimes, for whatever reason
(*hint, hint* staffing), management may not send you home! They may decide (with the plethora of licensed bodies in a hospital qualified to assess you) that you do in fact “look okay” to stay and work. Big. Fat. Fail. Now what?
This call-out taboo is even brainwashed into nursing students. To call out from clinical is to shoot yourself financially in the foot—students are sometimes threatened with having to personally pay the clinical instructor ($50/hr I have heard quoted) to come in on a non-scheduled clinical day to oversee your make up. As if. Or sometimes they’ll give you an ungodly amount of ridiculous busy work to do to make up the hours. And so students just come to clinical sick hoping they can just make it through the eight- (sometimes twelve-) hour shift. We are breeding the next generation of nurses with cover-your-ass-itis.
I was sick a few months ago. And I don’t get sick often, but I really felt like death warmed over. I went to my primary, who gave me a note stating that I needed to stay home (his exact words were “you shouldn’t be in anyone’s ICU like this”). I called the big cheese to let him know (and way before the two hours notice we’re required to give when we call out—I wanted to give him as much notice as possible to find someone else to come in). I was told that even though I had a doctor’s note it would still be “an incident.” I stayed home anyway.