Spotlight on: opening up to a nurse by Matthew Scrimshire

Opening up to a nurse

Many years ago, I had a boss who I got on with very well; we worked hard as a team and had fun too. He knew I wasn’t the type to ‘pull-a-sickie’. Despite my excellent sickness record (a handful of days in 5 years), character and commitment, I hated making a call to him to let him know I was sick. He’d always make me feel like I could come in, but didn’t want to. He’d ask what was wrong but, considering his tone and lack of belief in my honesty, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing details.

Stevenson and Farmer’s recent ‘Thriving at Work’ report shows that I’m not alone. 50% of employees are not comfortable talking about a mental health problem with their line manager, even though the more detailed an understanding of your ailment, the better you can be supported.

Many people who are keen to enhance absence management, to boost morale and resources, and consider the FirstCare service (a specialist in nurse-led, day-one absence management) ask, “would an employee open up to a nurse? Wouldn’t they prefer to speak with their manager?”

Their thinking is that most people would prefer to speak to someone they know. A valid concern but would you prefer to discuss a health issue (a sensitive one in some cases) with someone you know, and who manages you. Or, someone impartial with clinical expertise, focused on improving your health and committed to confidentiality?

Time is also a key consideration, as 44% of all absence calls come in between 6am and 8am making speaking with your line manager more of a challenge.

In addition, when you call in sick to your manager you’ve just added to their workload - how will your line manager cope with all this incoming call traffic? Our lines are unlimited, so everyone receives the same caring level of support.

Furthermore, 48% of all calls we receive come outside of core hours. Are you line managers trained to support a call at 3am when the individual has low mood and everything looks very bleak? Our nurse calls average 10 minutes during the day, and anything up to an hour in the middle of the night when people often require more support.

The knee-jerk reaction for the manager when they receive an absence call is taking care of operations, converse to you, when your health is at the forefront of your mind. This can make some managers appear to be unsupportive, when, the truth is, they are just swamped.

To discuss and record everything related to your absence, you have more time than them but, they need to lead the conversation to cover everything off and you may have caught them at a bad time. Who isn’t busy when they first arrive at the office?

That impartial nurse has the time, such as on a mental health call, and a duty of care and can talk for longer to help - it’s in their nature. That’s why people open up to our nurses which in turn, leads to better support, a faster return to health and reduced length of absence.

The manager’s role is pivotal to absence management. A wellbeing call and a well-judged return-to-work interview are vital, but sharing details of why you’re off with your manager may be embarrassing and they can’t use that information to assist you, the best they can do is record it correctly.

FirstCare provides a different approach, with excellent results for everyone. Find out about the impact our nurses help to deliver here.