Although she was sick, Theresa Puckett said she followed through with fluids and medicine—a treatment the Ohio nurse might prescribe any one of her patients—in an effort to keep herself healthy enough to make her shift at University Hospitals.
In an interview with KRON, Puckett said:
“I was putting in my cough drops, I was drinking my water, I was putting in my Mucinex. I mean, the whole nine yards just to patch myself up enough to go to work.”
In December 2017, Puckett called in sick when she came down with the flu. After returning to work, a supervisor sent Puckett home because she was too sick to work, requiring the use of another sick day, according to KRON. Puckett, a temporary nurse (also known as a PRN, pro re nata or “as needed” nurse) was subsequently fired from her position with the hospital over two unexcused absences within a period of 60 days.
As KRON reports, under the University Hospitals’ attendance policy, approved leave, workplace illnesses or injuries, scheduled paid time off, jury duty, and bereavement leave constitute excused absences. Although Puckett had a doctor’s note confirming her illness, it was not an excused absence under UH policy.
“There are times where I have gone to work so sick that the patient who is laying in the bed is in better condition than myself. I am more sick than the patient lying in the bed,” Puckett said, according to WEWS.
The nurse said it’s a practice she doesn’t preach: “I always tell my students who I teach, I say, ‘The first decision that you make when you wake up is, am I safe enough to report to duty today.'”
Puckett also called her dismissal “ironic,” KRON report, given that University Hospitals issued a restriction on hospital visitors who exhibit flu-like symptoms:
In a post on Facebook, University Hospitals announced visitor restrictions had been put in place “for the safety of our patients, staff, and the public.”
Puckett told KRON being fired over staying home sick amounted to a form of punishment:
“But when it happened to me, and I really truly was too sick to go to work, I was punished for that. I was punished for staying home with a doctor’s note.”
According to WEWS, University Hospitals said their policy is consistent with other medical systems nationwide.