A Guide to Calling Out of Work for Healthcare Professionals

January 17, 2023

To absent yourself from work can be challenging, especially considering the impacts such decisions might have on you and the hospital. The effects may include inhibiting the flow of quality patient care and forcing your coworkers to step in on your behalf. 

When you think about the questions, you will have to answer about your symptoms and the possibly unpleasant ways you might have to make up for your off-time. You might get discouraged and force yourself to work anyways. 

But you are human. An emergency need that warrants you to call out of work might arise from time to time. Going to work sick might pose a threat to the patients you are trying to provide care to. 

So, why do you need to put yourself and your patients at further risk by going to work sick? 

Keep reading if you are unsure how to do it when you need to call out of work. 

Why You Shouldn't go to Work Sick

You are no good to your patient's sickness. You are working while sick can make healthcare workers less productive. If the ailment is contagious, it can open your patients and colleagues to the risk of contracting your illness. 

Oncology and transplant patients, for instance, are highly susceptible to infections and disease. Therefore, immunocompromised nurses working with such patients risk their lives. 

But for some reason, many healthcare workers might never want to consider the option of calling out of work when they are sick or have solid reasons they shouldn't be at work. Let's consider some. 

Why Healthcare Workers Fail to Call Out of Work 

Quite understandable, you do not want to be a show-breaker. Having to call out of work means leaving your unit short-staffed. It is only natural to feel guilty for breaking the workflow in your organization. 

Knowing that your unit will be unable to find a replacement for your shift is one of the significant reasons you might decide to go to work sick. Moreover, when you finally pick up the phone to call in sick, your supervisor will probe you with questions and explain the staffing needs. This can make you change your decision.

Organizational policies are another reason healthcare workers might not want to call in sick. These policies often seem like punishment for calling in sick. Here are some forms they could take; 

  •  Forfeiting your paid vacation days if you call in on the first day after or the last day before any vacation time. 
  •  You will be assigned a makeup weekend shift if you call in sick on a weekend shift.
  •  A manager will hold an attendance review if you call a certain number of times within a year. The policies might further state that no other sick calls are allowed for the remainder of the year. 

Some hospitals might combine sick leave and vacation time under an umbrella they might title Paid Time Off (PTO). These policies can scare you off calling in sick, especially when you want to protect your vacation time. 

How to Call Out of Work 

Here are some steps to follow before you call out of work 

Choose an Appropriate Method 

First, you need to understand your organization's policies for calling out of work. If there is no explicit communication policy for these, consider using emergency communication channels to reach out to your supervisor. 

Examples of such channels may be phone calls, texts, or an online chat app. 

Act Quickly 

Healthcare is a sensitive industry. Therefore, it is necessary to promptly inform your supervisor when you discover you are ill and can't work. Explain that you need to take time off and give the earliest possible time range you feel you might be back at work. 

Try to keep your explanation brief. There is no need to go into the deep details of your ailment. Give a brief reason and explain that you won't be at work. This will enable your manager to plan accordingly. 

Keep Your Team Informed and Be Helpful

If you are going to call out of work, your boss is not the one involved. Your team, whom you work with daily, also deserves a direct heads up. Keeping your team informed communicates responsibility and a sound work ethic. 

Also, deliberate with your supervisor to discover how the department will work in your absence. In some cases, you might be asked to come up with a backup plan. You might also be asked to get someone to cover for you. 

When you and your supervisor have agreed on a willing replacement for you, be helpful enough to provide the staff with everything needed. This can ease the pressure caused by your absence. 

Follow up

Finally, when you return to work. You might need to provide follow-up documentation depending on your hospital policies. Some hospitals might require that you give a written notice confirming your ailment if your sickness spanned seven days or less. 

If the ailment spans more than seven days, you might be required to provide a sick note from your doctor.

Before Calling in Sick

If you cannot access whether you need to call in sick or not, you can ask yourself the following questions.

Are you Contagious? 

Contagious symptoms may include sneezing, coughing, and experiencing body aches and chills. It is best to stay at home for the day to avoid putting your colleagues and patients at risk. You might also need to research your symptoms to see if it is contagious.

Can you Perform Your Job? 

If you determine that your sickness or condition can significantly affect your performance at work, you might want to take time off work to recover. The healthcare profession lays enormous demands on its workers. 

Even if you are not contagious, you still need to operate at maximal capacity while working as a healthcare practitioner. 

Do You Need a Mental Health Day Off?

Your employers and administrators are legally responsible for protecting you from mental health. There is no difference between calling out of work for mental health reasons and calling in sick with physical sickness. 

Wrapping Up

Having observed your hospital policies around calling out of work, don't feel guilty about taking a sick day when the need arises.

Hospital administrators, above other employers, are more suitable to understand that it is better to take a day or two off work to recover than risk your health or expose your patients and colleagues. 

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