Web site spotlight: Health system lays off nurse during patient surgery

Nurse Leader Insider, May 4, 2009

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A Dean Health System physician made an incision during a recent routine surgery. A nurse manager, meanwhile, made a cut.

It’s the manager’s cut—to layoff a member of nursing staff who was assisting in the surgery—that has healthcare professionals up in arms. The manager called the nurse out of the surgical procedure to be informed that his or her position had just been terminated.

Paul Pitas, director of corporate communications at the Madison, WI-based facility, confirmed the incident followed an announcement on April 8 that the health system would lay off 90 employees “immediately.”

The facility released a statement in which Pitas declared “the absence of an RN goes against established patient care procedure” and that the act was “clearly ... an error in judgment on the part of the manager conducting the layoff.” Pitas declined to release the manager’s name, but he reported to the Wisconsin State Journal that the manager has more than 30 years of nursing experience.

The timing of the layoff—mid-surgery—is what has upset many nursing advocates.

“Layoffs may occur in these economic times, but there are correct methods for doing them,” says Polly Gerber Zimmermann, RN, MS, MBA, CEN, FAEN, assistant professor at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago, and former ED nurse director. “The employee should be told at the end of the day, after care responsibilities have concluded. Healthcare workers are traditionally known for their caring approach; it is important that the same consideration is given to them in this type of situation.”

Editor’s note: This excerpt was adapted from the article, “Health system lays off nurse during patient surgery” featured in The Reading Room on HCPro’s online resource center,

Do you need continuing education (CE) credits? Check out this month’s CE article on addressing health literacy or visit our archives and view a compilation of CE articles (marked with an asterisk).

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