Can I Leave My Home Health Post If There Are Rats?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about home care with rats:

I am a health care worker and I was assigned to do a night-sit in a patient’s home for 9 hours. The house was infested with rats! I could hear them but not see them. Do I have the right to leave in a case such as that?

Signed, EEEK!

DearĀ EEEK!:

How upsetting it would be to hear the sound of rodents at night! There are no regulations or laws pertaining to what you can or can’t do in those situations, but the one thing you certainly can’t do is just leave a patient without a replacement caregiver, either someone else from your healthcare agency or a family member of the patient. You not only have an ethical responsibility, but you could lose your job if your manager thinks you are undependable. Your company could be sued if the patient or his or her family thinks proper care hasn’t been given.If you aren’t able to get a replacement for your shift and you must do the work in order to keep you job, remember this: Rodents come out to find food when their little rodent brains tell them there is no threat–usually when they haven’t heard a noise for awhile.

So, anything you can do to make them feel there is a potential threat will make them stay inside the walls or wherever they are.Tapping the floor or walls periodically will tend to keep them away, since the sound of movement will usually send them scurrying. Lights are not a complete deterrent because rodents are most concerned about movement, but at least that would allow you to see THEM. A radio placed on the floor and tuned to a radio station that plays music with a strong beat might help (even with the volume turned low, the vibration might be a deterrent.) Consider calling a pest removal company and asking them what they recommend for your situation, even though you can’t use their services for permanent removal.

You should certainly report the situation to your manager and, if possible, to the family of the patient. In some situations there is simply nothing to be done because the rodents go from adjacent apartments or houses. In other cases the rodents can be killed or controlled. Perhaps if family members are aware of it they will want to do something even more than you do. This kind of thing is one of the challenges of being a home health worker. I commend you for your work and your concern for patients. This is one of those times when that commitment is put to the test. Talk to your supervisor and others and see if you can at least limit your night time visits.Hopefully your patient will recover quickly to the point that no night time help is needed. In the meantime, making sure someone is there to help must be your first concern, then you can either leave that assignment or find a way to make it less uncomfortable for you.Best wishes with this unusual but unnerving situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you do and what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.