Fired for falling asleep on the job: Our readers weigh in

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Two clinicians offer their opinion on June's Legal Advisor about a female nurse fired for falling asleep while on duty in the hospital.
Two clinicians offer their opinion on June's Legal Advisor about a female nurse fired for falling asleep while on duty in the hospital.

I worked 12-hour nights as an Emergency Medical Services dispatcher before becoming a nurse and then 12-hour days and nights in labor and delivery and in an ICU for many years. I also worked four 12-hour shifts in a row every other week. Not once did I fall asleep on the job. If I felt that tired, I would get up and walk the halls, stock rooms, or do something that required activity so that I could stay awake.

While I empathize with this nurse, I would think it wiser to skip the meeting and go home to sleep. The meeting may have seemed like it was life-altering, but falling asleep on the road on the way home is more life-altering.

As far as the hospital's policy is concerned, I think she very likely knew that there was a policy against sleeping on breaks. Also, as stated, sleeping staff members in a public area do not fill the public with confidence. She should have simply called the supervisor on duty to inform a manager that she was too tired to remain and had not taken a break. If she had been relieved already, she may have been allowed to just go home. There are many ways that she could have handled the problem, even if she did risk upsetting the new supervisor.—Genifer Johnson, DHA, MSN, RN, West Palm Beach, Fla. 

Cruel! I worked night shift for 12 years, and there are moments when it is impossible to fight Mother Nature. Cruel, cruel, cruel! Better to not only allow, but encourage, power naps during a scheduled break with coverage provided by another nurse. That would go a long way against inadvertently falling asleep at unplanned times and would increase sharpness and acuity that would benefit the patients. I never understood the mentality of those who would prohibit this. Terrible!—Betty Ditillio, MSN, APN, ANP, BC, NP-C, ACHPN, AOCNP, CCRN, Livingston, N.J. 

View the Legal Advisor here


These are letters from practitioners around the country who want to share their clinical problems and successes, observations and pearls with their colleagues. We invite you to participate. If you have a clinical pearl, submit it here.

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