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A practice of leaving early and not signing out has become abused by some of my colleagues. I hesitate to report this because I have covered for some of them. What should I do?

Wednesday December 5, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I work in a large healthcare system where some employees are required to electronically sign in and out. As midlevel practitioners, we are considered management and are only required to sign in. Some of my colleagues have left work early for one reason or another, asking another colleague to cover for them. This has become abused, however and certain colleagues are repeat offenders, continually leaving early. I can't say anything because I have covered for some of them in the past. If I knew about it and said nothing previously, I am as much at fault and could be fired. Do I have any recourse?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Judith,

It is understandable that you feel conflicted about notifying the facility about this practice, since you have known about it for a while. However, it seems that this is a new development and the practice is now being abused. Your concerns for patient safety, as well as the fact that the behavior is unprofessional, are well-founded.

For your own peace of mind, you might want to consider sharing your concerns with the person to whom you directly answer. For example, if it is the CNO you can confidentially share your concerns with him or her. The CNO can then decide how to handle the situation by, as an example, requiring that a request to leave early go through his or her office. Or, the CNO might meet with all the mid-level practitioners and raise the concern about this situation that has come to his or her attention.

Sharing your concerns with the CNO can be based on your nursing staff bylaws, rules and regulations that govern your clinical practice privileges by which you function while in the facility. It would be hard to believe that the one or more of those applicable requirements do not state something about ethical and honest practice as a requirement of obtaining, and continuing to possess, clinical nursing privileges in the facility. A careful review of the practice privilege guidelines might help you overcome your hesitancy to share your issues with the CNO.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.