Allegation of Sleeping On Night Duty

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sleeping on the job:

I am a night Nurse who was informed by my nurse manager that another nurse alleged that I was sleeping at 06:00 hrs whilst observing a patient. No one on the shift informed me about this until I received a call the next day about this allegation and was suspended from work pending an investigation. Do I have the right to request of my manager a copy in writing of this serious allegation by another nurse? This hurts as this never occurred. I never sleep on night duty and would like the manager to produce evidence of date and time of when this was alleged to happen.

Signed, Night Duty Suspended

Dear Night Duty Suspended:

Check with Human Resources or your personnel department to learn what is its policy regarding discipline protocol. I think you should be provided a statement of a charge for something serious enough to warrant suspension. However, I doubt that you will be given the name of the nurse who reported you were asleep. You should be exonerated unless the investigation gains clear evidence of this. Such a complaint, if false as you say it is, suggests that all is not harmony within your work area.

A coworker need not like each other, nor should they cover for a coworker’s incompetence or neglect, but this incident whether proven or not signals that your work group could benefit from team building.Working solo and monitoring each other for errors is not an effective work situation. Team-mindedness within and between shifts will determine the quality of your nursing. Am I not right to think your work group is not a team?

Your nurse manager now is challenged to learn the truth of the complaint about you and more. By “and more” I mean she/he needs to learn what is going on performance-wise and relationship-wise. This probably will entail staff sessions to clarify roles and rules and more importantly talk about talk. The quality of nursing depends on accurate and effective communication. A manager can make the rules about how you communicate, but she/he can’t generate “ownership” of them.

Cooperation is an ongoing collaborative clarification of who does what, when, where, and why. And that entails skull sessions, regular and impromptu huddles, to perform as a team in the patients’ best interest. The fact that you have been accused of sleeping on the job indicates that a coworker is out to get you or that individual genuinely believed you were not awake when on duty. I can understand if you did dose off, and if so, you had best not blame your coworker; saying she/he is a liar. If you do that, even after returning from suspension, your working relationship will be anything but cooperative. If that nurse did lie, once you return to work, you will be hyper suspect of working with that individual.Rebuilding good working relationships will not be a walk in the park whatever the investigation concludes. Hopefully, your nursing manager will be up to helping your work group put the past behind you and to generate a collective commitment to delivering quality care.

One hospital in our area is committed to “Operation Excellence” in its 4,000-employee workforce and that is spelled out by the term “lean management.” Work groups do base line measures of their tasks and seek out ways to make their work more efficient and effective. The very effort of continuous quality improvement demands that work groups find ways to make each others’ jobs more effective and easier. It also means that they must think big; finding ways to delight their internal and external customers.At the conclusion of this investigation, two of the don’ts you should abide by are: don’t allow this suspension to sour you and don’t obsess about it playing and replaying it in your head. Hold your head high and focus on doing the best night duty ever. Talk to your self; praising the good you do. Cheer on those with whom you work, doing what you can to make their and your manager’s work easier. Does this make sense? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is really what you want, isn’t it?

Follow Up: Thank you very much; I appreciated your honesty and prompt response to my question of a stressful situation. I’ve gotten no apologies from management nor have they provided a statement of a charge for something serious enough to warrant suspension.I returned to my full time job. No time have I ever dozed or fell asleep throughout the night. Since there was no evidence at all to support this allegation, it has divided an already disintegrated ward; a ward with no resemblance of a team. You so rightly picked up on that from my brief description of a situation that is man-made. Managers follow protocols of how it has always been done. HR that is part their little clique supports their rules, policy and procedures.

Nevertheless I feel so much better for your ample suggestions of ways we might shape the quality of care we are paid to deliver, how we should move forward, future development and the long overdue work on team building.I am so grateful for your comments as an outsider looking in, as you certainly hit the nails with the right hammer. As a result of this, I would cherish your excellent non-judgemental views throughout my nursing careers. I feel so energized with all these new ideas from you as I am no longer angry or bitter about the whole set up thing.

Instead I intend to let go, put the pass behind me and start the healing process. As a professional practitioner O intend to motivate and join with others about working together with other team players who are willing to change attitudes for the common good of the clients we serve. Once again thanks a lot for your assistance. Kind Regards –An Experienced Band MNIt’s good you are back to work. I predict your positive spirit will spill over and that with patience and persistence you will bit by bit generate coworkers to reaffirm the kind of tender loving care that motivated you all to choose the nursing career path. Thank you for the update.

William Gorden