How Do You Take Your Sick Days? We’re Guessing “Rare.”

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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 Facebook. 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.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I have actually had pulse of 145 and above benn sent
    Been sent to the ER received 2 doses of
    Adenosine and O2 then been sent back to the floor
    Floor to finish my shift. I felt as if I had
    Run a marathon. They just kept saying
    “There isn’t anyone else “.

  2. I’m in management & my staff knows that if they’re not well & need to call out, that’s what they have to do. No questions asked. I’m not a judge & I don’t know their pain or sickness. I tell them to take care of themselves first. I am willing to take an assignment,if needed.

  3. Every day I hear/read about the Nursing Shortage, and about how valuable we are. When I first moved to Fl., the place I started turned out to be filthy, and the other nurses had huge attitude problems. (I was snowed-big time). I quit before orientation was two days in. My wife freaked! She thought that I should’ve had a new job lined up first. I assured her that I knew what I was doing. I put out four resumes the next day. I got three interviews within three days. I took a position at a rehab facility with an excellent reputation, and I love it here.
    They don’t give me a hard time when I’ve had to take some days off (Epididmitis, no less). I was off for 2 days until the antibiotic kicked in and I felt better. I went back to work, and all I heard was ‘How are you doing? I’ve also picked up extra days/hours to help out with call offs. Look, it’s not heaven- it is hard work with demanding pt.’s. We often are working short of CNA’s. But it’s going to take a shoe horn to get me to leave. The lesson is- treat yourself as an Extremely Valuable Asseset. You are.

  4. I have to say that being in healthcare you would think people would be more understanding. Not the case. This past year I have been dealing with migraines, fatigue, and joint pain. I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Still trying to work out meds, diet and lifestyle but it is getting better. I got written up because I got a migraine at work and didn’t have my meds, so I needed to leave. My husband had the come get me cause I couldn’t drive. I was also told not to call out th next day.

  5. I have to say …as a supervisor…some times stupid things fall out of my mouth. Of course I care and I do not want you there sick and I do not want you to come to work when you need to be having an appy! but….we ….bosses some times are so stressed with trying to cover call ins, we say stupid stuff. Like so and so already called in you cannot leave just because you have a little appendicitis. So forgive us when we have doodoo head moments like the boss described above.

  6. I had been having abdominal pain for about a week. I had finally decided it was either my gallbladder or my appendix, but it was the week of Fourth of July. I didn’t want to have my suspicions confirmed, and then have to call in on the 4th from being post-op, so I held out. While at work on the morning of the Fourth, I saw a surgeon rounding at about 10 am. We had a great report with each other, so I asked him about my symptoms and pain. He assessed me, said it was definitely appendicitis, and insisted I go to the ER immediately. Instead, I told my boss, I would finish up 7-3, but needed to call in for 3-7. Her response? “But “Katie” already called in for 3-7. We’ll be extra short. My quick (and unprofessional, fed up) response, “I. Have. Appendicitis.” Went straight to the ER at 3. Was in surgery before the end of the day. BTW, my boss hasn’t mentioned another word of the situation. Other than when the assistance nurse manager contacted me to see if I thought I could return from FMLA sooner.

  7. I have never called in sick…..been lucky enough to have major problems on my days off!…. I know they wouldn’t be happy if I ever did but I think I’ve earned it if need be.

  8. Nurses do not typically build “sick leave.” We are frowned upon when calling in and our meager “paid time off” is just pitiful. There is no such thing as “sick leave” as an RN in Florida.

  9. My hospital(supposedly 1 of the best in NJ)has a policy place for a zero tolerance for calling out sick. You call in sick 2 times within a 3 months period you get a verbal warning, 3 call out you get suspended.
    4 call out you out of the door.
    So if you want to keep your job, unless you are dying, better show up to work.


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