Nurses need to eat just like everyone else, but a nurse in Quebec, Canada, who wishes to remain anonymous, was suspended earlier this year for three days without pay after she was caught eating a piece of toast with peanut butter on it in the middle of her shift. To make matters worse, she was asked to leave in the middle of an ongoing nursing shortage.
The dismissal letter, which was obtained by a local news outlet, stated the reason for her firing. It said theft of food meant for residents constitutes “a serious breach of your obligations of loyalty and honesty,” wrote the nursing director of the integrated health and social services center (CISSS).
“Your failures have significant negative consequences both on the reputation of the establishment and on your professional credibility as well as on the quality of the services offered to our customers,” it read.
The CISSS met with the nurse a month after the firing to get her side of the story. According to the hospital, the nurse admitted to eating the toast because she had a “stomachache” and didn’t have time to eat lunch before coming to work. She also reportedly mentioned “not knowing” that it was prohibited.
“I find it appalling, for a toast,” said Brigitte Petrie, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), which represents nurses in CISSS. She said the nurse was surely more effective after eating her toast.
According to the hospital, some slices of bread are made available for staff if the residents don’t want them. In some cases, they even have to throw the bread away if it goes bad.
It was the first time the nurse was warned for breaking the rules, and the entire ordeal now has her thinking of quitting nursing altogether.
“I didn’t reach the hurdle of taking equipment. But a verbal notice might have been enough, she says. Whether you steal a crumb of bread or medicine, it’s the same boat,” Petrie explained. “It was very brewed. It is a very coercive management. We are really offended by this kind of management in the midst of a crisis.”
Petrie was so frustrated with the situation she even brought a bag of bread to the CEO of CISSS. The company refused to comment on the situation, but it said it reached out to the union representing the nurse.
“We understand the perception that this can leave in a context of labor shortage. Unfortunately, we cannot comment on this specific file in order to preserve the employee’s confidentiality,” spokesperson Caroline Doucet wrote by email.
But now the nurse is being reinstated after Sonia Bélanger, the Quebec minister responsible for senior care, tweeted that she would look into the matter.
“I asked the CISSS for an explanation and the CEO agreed that the measure was too severe,” she said on Twitter on Monday in French. “The CISSS will meet with the nurse today to apologize and inform her that they are reversing their decision. The managers involved will be met.”
“The Montérégie-Est Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) has taken note of the whole situation and is canceling the disciplinary measure of a three-day suspension for the nurse involved. Considering the discrepancies in the handling of this event, the measure has been invalidated and removed from the employee’s file,” the hospital wrote in French.