When Someone Calls in Sick

When someone calls in sick, it is an unexpected event, and the facility has no control over it. Nor do they have any control over how many people may call in sick at the same time. It creates a situation where all available staff need to be reorganized to fit the needs of the facility to provide adequate care to the patients. It is never ideal and can be very stressful to all staff, and especially new nurses.

The Effect on Patients

In some situations where mandatory staffing ratios must be met, even one or two people in a facility calling in sick can create a crisis situation. Units may need to be closed and patients transferred. The facility may need to close its doors to any new admissions; leaving emergency departments filled with patients, and emergency services diverting patients to other facilities.

All this takes the highest toll on the patients. Precious time can be lost in emergency situations if patients need to be diverted to other facilities, and short-handed situations offer less than ideal situations for delivery of health care.

This is why it is critical for all nurses to take their jobs seriously and be professional. If you need time off, arrange for it ahead of time, and if you're not really sick, go to work. Of course, there will be times when you are ill, and you do not need to share your germs with patients and other staff.

Using Floaters in Your Unit

When someone calls in, management will have to reorganize staffing. Often they will ask for volunteers to float to another area, and if necessary, make an assignment. This creates a situation where you will have help, but they can be very unfamiliar with your unit. Not only will they not know the layout, they won't necessarily know the staff and any particular nuances of how you function as a team.

How you accept and incorporate float help into your unit affects how well the situation can be managed. How willingly they accept the challenge plays a big role in the success as well. If the new person comes in with a chip on her shoulder and demanding to have her own needs met without regard to the game plan, then this situation can be a huge challenge.

Watch and learn how your management handles each situation. Are they timid and allow the float staff to run all over them, grateful for the warm body, and forgiving all the other issues? Or do they dictate and make the situation uncomfortable for the floater? Hopefully, the managers are good at being grateful and diplomatic about compromising to make everyone at least a little bit happy about assignments and breaks so no one is completely miserable. A strong team leader can pull it together and make all the difference.

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