Why NursesTakeDC 2018? Theresa Ward Puckett, @ExcuseSickNurses, Ohio Nurse Advocates
I’ve been a nurse for over 18 years and a nurse educator for over 15 years. During my career, my enthusiasm and enjoyment of the profession has ebbed and flowed. When I first started teaching, I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be a nurse. Now, I worry that not enough nurses will be attracted to or retained in the profession. I look at my bright, motivated undergraduate students and wonder if they really know what they’re up against as they launch into their first job (they don’t). I also wonder if they will care about the profession and the patients enough to continue the fight for workplace safety.
This year has been the most trying year of my career. I contracted the flu around the holidays and was sick for three weeks. During this time, I was fired from a PRN job that I loved because I missed three shifts. Even though I had doctor’s notes covering the days of my absence, I was fired per the hospital’s “No Fault” attendance policy. The hospital management that I had worked so hard to please texted me the news of my firing. I felt betrayed and like a fool for working extra shifts and leaving my family to cover holiday shifts that were above and beyond my obligation as a PRN nurse. I stood by them in their time of need, but they didn’t stand by me in mine.
The second slap in the face came from co-workers at that same job. These were people who I considered my “work family”. We socialized outside of work and celebrated each other’s special days. Several of them had just attended my wedding four months prior to the firing. A few months after my firing, I had only heard from one person. Losing their support because I was fired when sick felt like a betrayal. Aren’t nurses supposed to stand together in times of need?
The final event that rocked my sense of normalcy, security, and peer acceptance was being told that I was not invited back to teach at Kent State University next fall. The university and the hospital from which I was fired have close clinical ties. I’ll never forget the look of disgust thrown my way by the Dean of nursing after my story broke on CNN. Why wasn’t I being congratulated for speaking up?
In walks Andrew Lopez, Show Me Your Stethoscope, and Nurses Take DC. When I learned about Nurses Take DC, I hoped that attending the event would bring me in contact with people who were like-minded and not embarrassed for me for what I did. I knew that I would be surrounded by people who are concerned about workplace issues that are ultimately patient safety issues, such as safe staffing and workplace violence, but would they see my issue as being just as important of a safety issue?
Nurse Take DC. What did the experience mean to me? It meant being accepted. It meant having nurses who recognized me approach me with a thank you. Above all, it was validating. It validated that I did the right thing. It validated that my speaking out did not ruin my career, but took my career in a different, more important direction. It gave me hope that together, we can make changes. Below is a photo of myself standing at the Nurses Take DC rally. See all of those people standing with me? They are my new nursing community. They don’t just punch in and out of their shift and complain in the locker room. They do. They act. I couldn’t be more excited to be on this journey of patient safety together.
NursesTakeDC 2018 details here:
Andrew Lopez, RN
Nursefriendly National Directories
38 Tattersall Drive
West Deptford, New Jersey 08051
856-415-9617, Fax: 856-415-9618, firstname.lastname@example.org, @nursefriendly