Calling in Sick When You're a Healthcare Worker

Sick woman blowing her nose

Paul Bradbury / OJO Images / Getty Images

All employees are expected to be at work regularly without missing too many days on the job. Most likely, you have an allowance of at least a few days you can miss in case of illness. Depending on your professional level, you may or may not get paid sick leave, so weigh options and consequences carefully.

As a healthcare worker, especially if you work in a clinical role, you have a responsibility to be there for your patients. However, you also have a responsibility to protect your patients' health and not put them at risk to catch what you have, if you are contagious. Even if you are not contagious, if you are groggy from medication, or if your judgment is impaired in any way, you may be more prone to making an error that could also potentially endanger your patients.

Before You Call in Sick

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you too sick to do your job effectively?
  • Are you contagious? (Could you infect patients or coworkers?)
  • Do you have sick time available?
  • How will your supervisor react?
  • How will this affect your career?

If after considering the above questions, most answers point you towards calling in sick, then you should do so after you have carefully considered the consequences to you and others.

How to Inform Your Manager

When it comes to notifying employers that they are taking a sick day, some healthcare workers reported they are bypassing a phone call to the boss and relying on digital communications, according to a survey by, a healthcare job board that is part of Respondents indicated they have used the following methods to call in sick:

  • Phone call: 89%
  • Email: 20%
  • Text message: 14%

Whatever you do, be sure you do inform your direct supervisor in some way, and in a timely, respectful manner. "Hospitals and other healthcare organizations are often already understaffed, so an unexpected absence can cause serious challenges," said Rob Morris, product director at "If you need time off, it's important to inform your manager, so they can plan for your absence. While the unexpected can happen, you want to make sure you don't hurt your credibility with the organization."

When Taking Sick Time, Honesty Matters

Employers are checking up on employees, according to Calling in sick without a legitimate excuse can have serious consequences. Seventeen percent of healthcare employers said they have fired a worker for this reason. Thirty percent have checked up on an employee, citing the following examples:

  • 80 percent required a doctor's note
  • 50 percent called the employee
  • 18 percent had another employee call the employee
  • 10 percent drove by the employee's home

Bad Excuses

What excuses should you not use when calling in sick? Anything that is a lie. Additionally, giving too much information or detail can also be bad. If the circumstances really are unusual, then you may sound like you're making up a story.

When asked to share the most unusual excuses employees gave for missing work, employers across all industries offered the following real-life examples:

  • Employee's 12-year-old daughter stole their car and they had no other way to work. Employee didn't want to report it to the police.
  • Employee said bats got in her hair.
  • Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
  • Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
  • Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
  • Employee ate too much at a party.
  • Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
  • Employee got a cold from a puppy.
  • Employee's child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER to remove it.
  • Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
  • Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
  • Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
  • Employee's brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
  • Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
  • Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.
Was this page helpful?