With INMO director of industrial relations Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Query from member
I was recently involved in a very traumatic incident in my workplace. I witnessed one of my colleagues being subjected to a violent attack by a patient and I now find that I am very nervous attending work and am concerned that if I take sick leave, my employer will question it and not support me.
The responsibility of your employer in this incidence is to support you as you have experienced and witnessed a stressful event in the workplace. Your employer is obliged, under the Health and Safety Act, to provide you with an environment that is safe and healthy for you to work in. If this incident was known to your line manager, they should have immediately dealt with it by speaking with, and providing support, for those who could have been traumatised by association.
If this did not occur or you were not on duty when it was offered, you should now seek it. You are perfectly entitled to request support/help from your employer in dealing with this event and its after effects. Your employer should make occupational health and employee assist/counselling services available to you. If these services are required, and if availing of them requires you to take time off duty, there should be no question in respect of your entitlement to do so. We would encourage you to deal with the issue as sometimes it is very difficult to cope with the aftermath of such an event and difficult to attend for work without feeling afraid and vulnerable. Your employer needs to be made aware of this and if any of your colleagues are in a similar situation, you should encourage them to raise this with your employer immediately.
The INMO also provides a telephone counselling service for our members which is free and the number for this is 1850670407. In addition, if you find you are not getting support from your employer, please contact the INMO official/IRO and we will raise this matter on your behalf.
Query from member
The area I am currently working in is constantly short staffed. I am concerned about the effects this may have on patient care and also my ability to supervise junior colleagues and to practice safely. I find that I am very stressed and concerned. On leaving work I constantly wonder about what I could have done; did I complete everything correctly? This is now beginning to affect other aspects of my life outside of work. I have tried to raise the issue with my line manager but find that she feels the same as I and many of my colleagues do, in that the general attitude is you have to get on with the job and there are no more staff available. I would be grateful for any advice you may have to offer in respect of this on-going issue.
As with the previous question, what you are describing is a manifestation of a difficult work environment that is causing you to be stressed and concerned, largely due to circumstances outside of your control. You have done the correct thing, which is raised the concerns with your line manager.
While accepting that there are difficulties for all grades in relation to the provision of staff, it is worth having a ward meeting with your line manager and inviting one of your senior nursing colleagues to the meeting to discuss the very real concerns that staff have. It is imperative while practising in an environment such as this that you fill out clinical risk forms; you report incidences of near miss and adverse clinical incidence and put in place systems to prevent same from occurring.
The INMO runs a workshop on tools for safe practice in a clinical setting and if you have not already attended, you should book a place on the next available course. We have had very positive feedback from those who have participated to date.
You are also entitled to seek advice from your INMO official with a view to raising staffing levels in your ward as a grievance and pursuing an improvement to staffing levels.
In this months’ World of Irish Nursing, I have set out the employer’s responsibility in relation to stress in the workplace and the recent agreement reached by the INMO and other health service unions with the HSE, in setting the responsibility of the employer into a policy document. Please also read this article and contact us in relation to your employer’s responsibility to you and your colleagues when working in a stressful environment and we can advise you as to your entitlement and also your employer’s responsibility.
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