Absenteeism in Nursing
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY
A prevalent attitude amongst many nurses in the group selected for study was that there was no reward or recognition for not utilising the paid sick leave entitlement allowed them in their employment conditions. Therefore, they believed they may as well take the days off — sick or otherwise. Similar attitudes have been noted by James (1989), who noted that sick leave is seen by many workers as a right, like annual holiday leave.
In another longitudinal study of nurses working in two Canadian hospitals, Hacket Bycio and Guion (1989) examined the reasons why nurses took absence from work. The most frequent reason stated for absence was minor illness to self. Other causes, in decreasing order of frequency, were illness in family, family social function, work to do at home and bereavement.
In an attempt to reduce the level of absenteeism amongst the 250 Registered an Enrolled Nurses in the present study, the Prince William management introduced three different, yet potentially complementary, strategies over 18 months.
Absence rates for the six months prior to the Incentive scheme ranged from 3.69 per cent to 4.32 per cent. In the following six months they ranged between 2.87 per cent and 3.96 per cent. This represents a 20 per cent improvement. However, analysing the absence rates on a year-to-year basis, the overall absence rate was 3.60 per cent in the first year and 3.43 per cent in the following year. This represents a 5 per cent decrease from the first to the second year of the study. A significant decrease in absence over the two-year period could not be demonstrated.
The non-financial incentive scheme did appear to assist in controlling absenteeism in the short term. As the scheme progressed it became harder to secure prizes and this contributed to the program's losing momentum and finally ceasing. There were mixed results across wards as well. For example, in wards with staff members who had long-term genuine illness, there was little chance of winning, and to some extent the staffs on those wards were disempowered. Our experience would suggest that the long-term effects of incentive awards on absenteeism are questionable.
Over the time of the study, staff were given a larger degree of control in their rosters. This led to significant improvements in communication between managers and staff. A similar effect was found from the implementation of the third strategy. Many of the nurses had not realised the impact their behaviour was having on the organisation and their colleagues but there were also staff members who felt that talking to them about their absenteeism was 'picking' on them and this usually had a negative effect on management—employee relationships.
Although there has been some decrease in absence rates, no single strategy or combination of strategies has had a significant impact on absenteeism per se. Notwithstanding the disappointing results, it is our contention that the strategies were not in vain. A shared ownership of absenteeism and a collaborative approach to problem solving has facilitated improved cooperation and communication between management and staff. It is our belief that this improvement alone, while not tangibly measurable, has increased the ability of management to manage the effects of absenteeism more effectively since this study.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage In boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet write:
YES if the statement agrees with the information
NO if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this in the passage
2) Nurses in the Prince William Hospital study believed that there were benefits in taking as little sick leave as possible.
3) Just over half the nurses in the 1986 study believed that management understood the effects that shift work had on them.
4) The Canadian study found that 'illness in the family' was a greater cause of absenteeism than 'work to do at home'.
5) In relation to management attitude to absenteeism the study at the Prince William Hospital found similar results to the two 1989 studies.
6) The study at the Prince William Hospital aimed to find out the causes of absenteeism amongst 250 nurses.
7) The study at the Prince William Hospital involved changes in management practices.
Complete the notes below.
Choose ONE OR TWO WORDS from the passage, for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 8-13 on your answer sheet.
In the second strategy, staff were given more control over their ......(9 )........
In the third strategy, nurses who appeared to be taking ...... (10)...... sick leave or ...... (11) ...... were identified and counseled.
Initially, there was a ...... (12)...... per cent decrease in absenteeism.
The first strategy was considered ineffective and stopped.
The second and third strategies generally resulted in better ...... (13) ...... among staff.
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