Asthma, work, and bullying

Hi guys

I've not been around for ages, so I hope you don't mind me having a rant and asking for your advice...

I am currently working as a Staff Nurse on a very busy acute respiratory ward, full time and on 12.5 hour shifts. I have always been honest with work/Occy health with regards to my brittle asthma, and as such Occy Health have said I'm not to work more than 2 shifts in a row due to the severity of my condition, and to expect higher levels of sickness etc.

I started the job 6 months ago, and have had 13 days off sick, many A&E trips, etc etc and my manager has had enough. I feel she is trying to bully me in to leaving, by saying that I am letting myself, the team, and patients down. She has told me that she thinks ""it gets to 3pm and I just want to go home, so pretend I am unwell"", will not let me use my nebuliser at work, and has warned me that using my inhaler ""looks unprofessional"". One evening I was in A&E with an attack and, against Dr's advice, forced myself to work the next day to avoid the aggravation - my manager took me coming in to work as a sign that I was not really ill the previous day, and went to A&E as an excuse to leave a study day early!!

I do not want to be bullied in to leaving, and although I do find it hard work and stressful, all I want to do is look after others also having breathing problems. I have been told that it would be a nuisance for me to work short days (though there are staff members who do so), and have been re-referred back to Occy Health...although I am under a consultant, and OH said that they should just expect higher sickness.

Any advice would be very gratefully received, I am at my wits end. I have been unwell with my chest last night and today, using lots of nebs, and tomorrow I start night duty for a week or so, but due to the pressure, aggravation, and upset I go through at work when I either phone in sick or am bad at work I cannot and will not phone in sick. Dangerous, yes, but I feel I have no choice.

Please help!! Sorry for writing so much,...

Crazy Baby

6 Replies

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  • Your manager should be letting you use your inhaler and nebuliser whenever it is needed as this would be considered a reasonable adjustment because of your asthma as well as helping you to control your asthma and in the long term helping you to stay at work rather than being off sick.

    Your manager should not be putting her view that it looks ""unprofessional"" forward as it is risking your health! May be she needs a gentle reminder from a more senior member of staff or human resources, a health and safety officer or occupational health that she should be making the necessary adjustments to allow for your asthma and enable you to carryout your job. If you are a member of your union I would also get them involved.

    Hope you get things sorted out.

  • I agree, I would go to her manager as she's the one being unprofessional not you!

  • You seriously need ti speak to your hr officer, union rep and occ health about this.

    This behavior from your manager is totally unacceptable and plainly putting you in danger therefore she is not fulfilling her duty of care as your manager.

    Pls don't let her bully you like this, its just plain wrong.

    X

  • what everyone else has said

    and the stress your manager is creating for you won`t help your asthma either

    I do hope you can sort the problem out soon and stay well - good luck

  • Hi guys

    I've not been around for ages, so I hope you don't mind me having a rant and asking for your advice...

    I am currently working as a Staff Nurse on a very busy acute respiratory ward, full time and on 12.5 hour shifts. I have always been honest with work/Occy health with regards to my brittle asthma, and as such Occy Health have said I'm not to work more than 2 shifts in a row due to the severity of my condition, and to expect higher levels of sickness etc.

    I started the job 6 months ago, and have had 13 days off sick, many A&E trips, etc etc and my manager has had enough. I feel she is trying to bully me in to leaving, by saying that I am letting myself, the team, and patients down. She has told me that she thinks ""it gets to 3pm and I just want to go home, so pretend I am unwell"", will not let me use my nebuliser at work, and has warned me that using my inhaler ""looks unprofessional"". One evening I was in A&E with an attack and, against Dr's advice, forced myself to work the next day to avoid the aggravation - my manager took me coming in to work as a sign that I was not really ill the previous day, and went to A&E as an excuse to leave a study day early!!

    I do not want to be bullied in to leaving, and although I do find it hard work and stressful, all I want to do is look after others also having breathing problems. I have been told that it would be a nuisance for me to work short days (though there are staff members who do so), and have been re-referred back to Occy Health...although I am under a consultant, and OH said that they should just expect higher sickness.

    Any advice would be very gratefully received, I am at my wits end. I have been unwell with my chest last night and today, using lots of nebs, and tomorrow I start night duty for a week or so, but due to the pressure, aggravation, and upset I go through at work when I either phone in sick or am bad at work I cannot and will not phone in sick. Dangerous, yes, but I feel I have no choice.

    Please help!! Sorry for writing so much,...

    Crazy Baby

    Dont apologise for how much you have written, it sounds like you need to vent!! I am also a qualified nurse of 14yrs, though had to give up work three years ago. The year I was very ill, and in and out of hospital with pneumonia was terrible. Ironically I went from being the team member with the lowest sick record, to the highest, so you would think my manager would have cut me some slack, but no - it seemed being almost ventilated in ITU still demanded, and I quote: ""better performance"".

    The NHS appear to be appalling at supporting their staff.

    > PLEASE get in touch with your union representative ASAP - document everything so that you are prepared when you talk to them to

    explain your situation, and arrange to meet them to discuss further. Are you RCN or Unison? I am RCN and they were excellent.

    > Ensure that you are supported at ALL meetings with Human Resources, and your manager by your union representative.

    > Try and keep all communications with your manager regarding your health and performance, by email or in writing so that you have proof

    of what she is saying as a record.

    > Keep a record of EVERY incident when she is refusing to comply with occupational health recommendations.

    > Contact occupational health and ask for an emergency appointment.

    I have experienced what you are going through and its horrible. If it wasn't for the support of my union representative and occupational health I would have seriously lost the plot. In the end, after an abysmal year, I did decide that I needed to stop working but that was MY decision, not theirs.

    Ultimately, your manager is acting illegally under the DDA (I have been through all this myself, and the Trust were threatened with court action by the RCN a few years ago). To be honest, if HR knew, they would probably come down on her like ton of bricks but you need support to take this further - so PLEASE contact your union in the first instance, its exactly what they are there for!

    Take Care,

    Lynda x

  • Thank you for your replies - I have got in touch with the RCN now, although I think I may find it difficult to prove anything that has been said by my manager. She has documented evidence of my sickness record, but I have nothing in writing to prove what she has said, although a friend of mine did suggest I have a dictaphone for when I do get summonsed to see her!

    Interestingly, the RCN website advises that sickness absence due to a long term condition or disability should be recorded separately to any other sickness absences, and should perhaps not be counted in the overall amount of time an employee has off sick. This has not been happening (I have had 2 days off sick with a stomach bug, all other absences have been asthma-related), though I'm guessing the Trust will say it is only RCN advice and not Trust policy...

    I am not the only staff member who seems to have had problems with my manager's lack of tolerance to sickness, and others have left or been sacked through similar circumstances. I'm just worried I can actually be sacked for this...

    Thanks all again :)

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