Nurses Are Talking About: Why They Go to Work Sick

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Do you go to work sick? Why? Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS offers evidence that most of us do work sick, completely contrary to our training and public health responsibilities, and tries to explain why:

“It’s called presenteeism, and nurses feel that they have no recourse. But they do; they can turn to their professional code of ethics.”

Source: Nurses Are Talking About: Why They Go to Work Sick

To me, it’s just another symptom of a health care system that has lost its way: profits have taken over and become the primary goal. Health rates a distant second, and will stay there until we demand change. Will we?

Will you? Let’s talk.


  1. I never call in sick to work. Last year my stomach was quesey and i thought well I just have two patients and go get for the nausea which was awful. I had to stop three times to vomit and i said forget it. Called the patient and apologized. Called my work and said I’m sick. Went to urgent care. Ended up in the ER worried about having to pay the five hundred dollar co pay if they sent me home. Had my stinky gall bladder out the next day. My surgeon he has never seen anything like my gallbladder and i running around with it for about 60 years. Would I do the same thing again? yep. We are programmed that you don’t call out. You don’t leave your fellow nurses in the lurch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WE’re trained to make the most effective decisions for all involved. When we forget our training trying to be heroes, we do no one a service​. Managers often substitute​ financial considerations for ethical & professional ones: we should not do the same. It makes things worse over time for everyone, including your fellow nurses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am now a retired RN. I’ve gone to work many times sick. It had more to do with the people you work with than a dedication to the patient. I have worked in many hospitals and if you called into HR and said you were sick a lot of times you would get a call from the charge nurse. They made you feel like they were checking to make sure you were really sick. At times if you call the floor and tell them you are sick, they lay a big guilt trip on you about how busy they are. It felt like a no win situation. It took me many years to realize I was hurting myself as well as my patients and other co-workers by carrying a virus into them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nurses too often allow themselves to conflate clinical responsibility, provider convenience, and financial consierrations. When you don’t trust a nurse to declare themselves sick, and yet you trust t h em with patient responsibilities, what dies that say about your ethics & priorities? Our system is deeply sick: profit considerations have become so pervasive, most of us take them for granted. We have no professional responsibility to maximize profits. We DO have professional & ethical responsibilities to our patients, although deep compromise has become mainstream, and ethical behavior often subject to severe punishment. Thanks for your important feedback, Shirley. Until we take our values more seriously and refuse to compromise rather more often, our system will continue to put $ & corruption above ethical care, a little more each day. Ethics is not often complicated: it’s just hard to do what our ethics clearly mandate, especially when it means conflicts with so many compromised others.

      Liked by 1 person

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