Can I be fired for refusing to take the role of night charge nurse?

By | 2022-02-14T17:51:10-05:00 April 13th, 2011|0 Comments


Dear Nancy,

Can my new nurse manager in the ED force me to take on the role of night charge nurse? I have been in the ED for 17 years and like being a staff nurse. I have never been interested in administration, and I am sick at the thought of it. I want to care for patients, and the charge nurse does not do patient care directly. Can I be terminated for refusing this offer? I was told to “suck it up and do the job,” but I don’t think I am meant to be a charge nurse. It’s not me and makes me very anxious.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Veronica,

It is unfortunate when nursing staff and the nurse manager cannot come to some type of resolution concerning an assignment that just is not a good fit for a staff nurse. A nurse manager who is a good leader would try to resolve this in a manner other than saying, “Suck it up and do the job.”

Several general options may be available to you. The first is to check your employee handbook. Review it to determine whether there is any statement or discussion of assignments for a charge nurse. Examples might be qualifications, length of time one is an employee, and so forth. Another area to check in the handbook is the employer’s grievance procedure. Determine whether your nurse manager’s demand that you take the charge role can be grieved. If so, you can take advantage of that option.

A third option might be to discuss this issue again with your nurse manager and ask that, at a minimum, a mentor be assigned to work with you until you see if you can handle the charge position. You may find you are better at it than you think. Still another option is to put in for a transfer to another shift in the ED where the charge position is not an issue.

Whether or not you can be terminated depends upon how unyielding the nurse manager may be in view of the employer’s employee conduct policy. Is it a progressive policy, requiring a warning or two before discharge? Or, is it one that allows sole discretion on the part of the administrator involved?

If your refusal is seen as insubordination, and insubordination is one of the grounds upon which discipline can be based, then termination is possible. Check with human resources if you are unsure about what can occur in this type of situation.



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