How do you take your sick days? We’re guessing “rare.”

Shutterstock | Alexander Raths
Shutterstock | Alexander Raths

Nurses know best the importance of taking care of oneself—from logging enough sleep each night to taking it easy when a case of something more than just the Mondays starts to rear its ugly head.

So—why aren’t nurses taking a page from their own book. Or, more accurately, why can’t they?

As it turns out, your fellow nurses had quite a bit to say in response to that very question on the ScrubsMag Facebook page. Intrigued, we scanned the conversation for anything from advice on how and when to draw the line to some pretty outrageous personal accounts.

Check out what some of your fellow nurses had to say about the particularly nursey headache (no pun intended) that is “the sick day.”

Or, you know, a lack thereof:

1. “[I don’t go to work if I’m experiencing] vomiting, diarrhea, fever, conjunctivitis—anything very contagious other than the common cold. If I’m sniffly, I’m going. I’m not going to be the co-worker who calls in every time I feel bad.” —Jennifer B. 

2. “[I don’t go to work if I’m experiencing] emesis, diarrhea, high fever—if I feel too dizzy to drive or in such pain that I cannot concentrate on anything else. I’ve been made to feel so bad about calling in by supervisors in the past, but I’d rather have someone put me on a guilt trip than risk harming my patients in any way.” —Charity G. 

3. “I know I am too sick to go to work from the moment I wake up, but one doesn’t dare call in. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I will go in and wait to get sent home. Last year, I was forced to work a whole week while trying to pass a kidney stone. I worked eight months with CIDP (chronic Guillain-Barré) and had to have IVIG every two weeks. My boss had the audacity to tell me I couldn’t take off for my infusions. I am always training PRN nurses, but it’s odd how they are never available to work for sick days because management keeps forcing them to work in empty spots that they have neglected to fill. Doesn’t stop the boss from taking vacation, though.” —Sundi A.

4. “We are expected to smile, serve and clean up after everybody. Take care of business, but who is taking care of the nurses? THIS is a fair question. The nursing force is getting shafted in so many directions, and [in addition to] our health being jeopardized, patients’ safety is a great concern. Our health is our greatest asset. No amount of money can replace that!” —Javanesque B.

5. “I limped with extreme back and leg pain at work for years, in worse pain than many of our patients. Realizing what it would mean to the nurses on duty, I could not bear calling in unless I absolutely couldn’t get up or, you know, had to stay very close to a bathroom. It’s just a shame all the way around.” —Rosy M.

6. “MY health comes first and foremost. I have NO problem taking a sick day. Besides, it’s not my problem they can’t properly staff on a GOOD day, let alone when a nurse is ILL.” —Debbie R.

7. “I went to work the morning after I fractured my ankle falling on ice and was in the ER until after midnight. The doctor told me not to bear weight for a week and wrote me a note, but I didn’t want to work my scheduled weekend/birthday off, so I went in. I call in when I have a gastro bug that’s active, a fever over 100 or a bad migraine where I can’t see straight. Otherwise, I’m there.” —Abby S. 

8. “I’m a midwife and once went to work with trigeminal neuralgia and fainted across a patient in her bed. From that day on I put my own health equal to the guilt of calling in sick and leaving my friends a man down.” —Karen A. 

9. “We have to use vacation days for the first three days sick—makes you push yourself even harder to go in.” —Cathy B. 

10. “Went to work with PVCs and a pulse of 162. My coworkers were more than happy to work it out so I could hang in the hospital for a while!” —Dawn D. 

How do you know when sick is too sick? Share with us in the comments section below about the limits you have in place (if only in a perfect world) to keep both yourself and your patients safe. 

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4 Responses to How do you take your sick days? We’re guessing “rare.”

  1. Deb Cooper

    We are only allowed 8 call in’s in a rolling 12 month calendar, you do not call in if you wish to keep your job unless it is a dire illness! Plus my vacation days and illness days are one in the same it is called PTO. Our staffing was so bad during flu season at the beginning of the year we worked short staffed for two months and they played it was like our fault! The guilt factor was so bad you didnt dare call in! I finally had to when I had a whopper case of the flu despite our mandatory flu vaccine requirments. Healthcare workers are around sick people all of the time….and then they question why we get sick too!

  2. Michele Mann

    Worked with broken ankle sat in w/c used crutches, worked with broken foot worked thru many many illnesses and 4 pregnancies when you are a nurse and are dedicated to your job you go to work no matter what

  3. JenA2774

    Had an outpatient surgical procedure done, informed boss and explained urgency and time requirements(figured she was a nurse…she would get it) only needed one day off because of how I was scheduled (we work 12hr days). I received a call while in the procedure to come in to work…they would give me a different day off of my choosing. Sigh…guess she didn’t “get it” p.s. I have one of the best attendance records in the department according to the manager.

  4. Nonyvole

    If I know that it’s something like conjunctivitis, or if I can’t drive,then I’ll call out sick. But I’ve gone into work and have had to leave early – one time it was so bad that when I made it out of the bathroom the doctor just held out a prescription for antiemetics. I just don’t have the time to take off; each month you only get enough PTO to cover one shift…there have been times when I was told that I couldn’t leave because of staffing numbers and patient census. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with chronic pain and fatigue, it’s only gotten worse.