System Sickness

Oh yes.
Psychiatric nurses in our part of the world are entitled to spend six months sick leave every year on full pay, and for many this is a temptation far too generous to decline. There seems to be an unofficial roster which staff use to co-ordinate their sick time, and it’s quite possible to predict the next period of sickness for particular nurses by observing their patterns over previous years. One nurse is completely unselfconscious about taking the same two weeks off every year just before Christmas, while another specialises in taking all his normal holiday entitlement in the first eight months of the year, so that ‘sickness’ can provide the necessary breaks later on. Great care is taken by the malingerers to ensure that only two staff at any one time are on long-term sick, because any more than this and the unit could grind to a standstill, forcing the managers to leave their dream worlds and examine the situation more closely. Time and again, supposedly sick staff are observed drinking pints of bitter in beer gardens, laughing uproariously on main shopping streets, and leaving the town to go on foreign holidays. One nurse was recently seen drinking a tin of lager at home with their feet up on their T.V. set fifteen minutes after phoning in sick with ‘nausea’, and another famously broke their arm during a house removal when they were already off sick with a bad back.
A large percentage of our nursing staff are on antidepressant medication, and almost as many have regular sessions with psychologists or counsellors, not only because they consider themselves to be desperately unwell, but because these measures are an essential part of their ongoing ‘sick role’ presentation to managers.
There’s really an unspoken agreement between managers and malingerers, that providing the administrative procedure of occupational health appointments, sick note production and return to work interviews is correctly followed, then the malingerers can continue to abuse the system indefinitely. This wonderful quid pro quo enables local managers to avoid messy confrontations with staff and their union representatives, while at the same time demonstrating that they’re doing their jobs.
It will soon be the case that staff claim more physical and mental illness than the patients they’re supposedly looking after……


2 Responses to “System Sickness”

  1. What about you? Do you yourself use/ abuse the sick-day privileges? Also, do they overlap? Could someone not use them and then take a year off to stabilize their “mental health”?

  2. Hello there. Thanks for reading the blog. No, I’m afraid I was one of those people who compensated for absent staff by doing overtime. My own view is that health care providers can no longer afford to operate as social services for their own staff. Employees with regular or long-term sickness problems are simply not doing the job they are being paid for, and they need to move out of the service. Current practice only survives because managers find it easier to spend tax payers’ money on supply staff, than to confront difficult issues.

    All the best,

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