"Organizations need to have a healthy work environment philosophy," says Edmonson, which encompasses "taking a hard look at all the policies and practices in the system that might incentivize nurses to come to work ill or when they are not fit for duty."
Edmonson's organization took a look at policies and procedures that sent the wrong message to staff. For example, in one organization, the wording regarding "sleeping on the job" prohibitions was changed to ensure it didn't unintentionally discourage nurses from taking a brief nap during breaks or lunch periods—something that is encouraged if nurses feel they need it.
Many organizations reward nurses for perfect work attendance, which simply results in nurses coming to work sick, compromising patient care, and transmitting infections to patients and other staff.
"There are programs and pay practices across the nation that give perfect attendance bonuses, merits with an attendance factor, or do not allow nurses to participate in certain career enhancement programs if you don't have perfect attendance," says Edmonson. "Those are the types of criteria that we as an organization and as a healthcare industry need to be able to look at and see whether they are truly meeting the intent of the program or whether we are actually incentivizing people for unhealthy behavior."
Nurse executives should look at their organization's policies and remove these types of incentives to ensure we do not penalize nurses for not coming to work when they are ill or not fit for duty.
"We need to make sure that we are a caring and compassionate organization toward the people that we expect to be caring and compassionate toward the patients," says Edmonson.