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23 guilt-free excuses for nurses to call in sick

Being in the healthcare profession isn’t easy at the best of times, especially or nurses.  The hours are long, the work is stressful, and as a nurse, you’re putting your own health and well-being on the line every shift you work.  You do it because your work is vital, and your patients need your professional care. 

To do your job effectively, you need to make sure you’re up to the task when your shift starts, which is why you’ll want to listen if your body tells you it needs some time off.  You might be required to explain your absence or request the time off, but if you’ve read our list of the best excuses for nurses to call in sick, you’ll be well-equipped to fend off any questions.

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      Good excuses for nurses to call in sick

      As a nurse, calling in sick is more or less the same as it is at any other job.  All the common reasons are applicable but to help you out, we’ve made a list of the most successful excuses at your disposal.

      1. You woke up with a migraine

      When a migraine strikes, it can be debilitating.  In any case, there’s no way you’ll be able to focus properly with a migraine and deliver the level of care your patients need when your head feels like it’s being split open.  It’s better to call in and make the migraine your excuse for nurses to call in sick.

      2. Your child is sick

      You’re a nurse but you’re also a parent.  Your kids come first, no matter what, so if they are feeling ill you’ll need to be there to take care of them.  Not much else needs to be said.

      3. Your parents are sick

      If your parents caught the flu or are feeling under the weather for some other reason, then they’ll expect you (the nurse) to work your magic and help them out.  It might get in the way of your shift, but it’s your duty and the least you can do.

      4. Your pet is sick

      Chances are your supervisor is an animal lover, so this excuse will work perfectly.  You need to take your pet to the vet, or make sure they are cared for until they get better.  Pets are family, and will always take precedence over a shift at work.

      5. You need a mental health day

      You’re probably no stranger to long hours of overtime, and have developed the mental fortitude to tough out even the longest shifts.  That said, sometimes enough is enough and you need some time to recuperate.  Take a shift or two off to recharge your mind and body, then come back stronger and ready to own any shift they throw at you.

      female nurse in a red vest is holding her head and calling in sick to work because of a headache

      The hands-down best excuses for nurses to call in sick with

      There are lots of good illness-related excuses for nurses to call in sick, but these two (it’s a split decision) take the top spot.  No one will argue, everyone will feel sympathetic, and you won’t need to provide any proof. So, if you’re in a pinch to get out of work, choosing one of our two favorites and best excuses for nurses to call in will get you off the hook without too many hassles.

      1. You have diarrhea

      One word – explosive.  It’s gross, it’s super personal, and nobody would want to be hassled about it themselves.  The charge nurse of all people isn’t going to want to hear about how you’ve been to the toilet five times this hour because of diarrhea, and that’s what makes this the split winner of best excuse for nurses to call in sick.

      2. You’re vomiting

      Just like diarrhea, nobody will want the details of how you’ve been throwing up your guts all morning.  You probably won’t be asked any questions or asked to provide photo evidence, and doctors are very quick to provide a note as to why you missed your shift.

      Real excuses for nurses to miss a single shift

      Sometimes life gets in the way of work and you need to cancel your shift.  You shouldn’t be required to explain yourself, but if you do get pressed, you can use one of the following excuses for nurses to take a day off.

      1. You have a scheduled appointment

      You have a doctor or dentist appointment scheduled.  You weren’t able to get an appointment on your day off, so you need to call in and cancel your shift so you can make your appointment.

      2. Your babysitter canceled

      Your child is too young to stay at home unattended and your significant other is out of town on business.  You had a babysitter arranged but they just canceled on you, which means that you’ll have to take the day off work yourself.

      3. Don’t even offer an excuse

      This is almost the easiest way to call out of a shift, and frankly, it’s our favorite too.  You shouldn’t need to divulge personal stuff just to get out of work, so sometimes simply saying “I can’t make it in today,” is the best way to take a day off.  Make sure not to accidentally text someone the real reason though.

      nurse in light blue robe sitting at a reception desk, on the phone taking a call from a coworker who is calling in sick

      Excuses for nurses to call in for extended shifts

      If a single day off work isn’t enough to get yourself back in shape for work, then in the interest of your own health, you’ll need to take some more time.  Your job is stressful so it’s totally understandable, but you’ll likely still need to provide a reason for your extended absence.

      1. You had an accident

      You weren’t paying attention going down the stairs and you slipped, injuring yourself in the process.  You don’t think it’s broken but it’s way too painful to be on your feet right now, and you’ll need a few days for the swelling to go down.

      2. You put your back out at the gym

      You use physical exercise to destress after work and you ended up putting your back out doing squats.  It’s difficult to get around, let alone take care of patients at work, so you’ll need to take some time off until you’re back to your old self.

      3. You need to take some time off for mental reasons

      Nursing is one of those professions that can take a serious toll on your mental state.  The hours are long and the job is often emotionally draining.  If you feel like you’re mentally deteriorating, it’s a good idea to take some time off and get your motivation back.

      Excuses for nurses to call out on short notice

      Taking a day off and calling out, isn’t a crime against humanity.  Sometimes a shift just isn’t on the cards and you need some time to yourself for whatever reason, especially if you’ve been pulling lots of overtime, as many healthcare professionals often do.  You shouldn’t need to be sick to take a day off, so if your supervisor asks for the reason you’re not coming in, you can use one of these ready-made excuses for nurses to call out on short notice.

      1. Your kids are sick

      Family comes first and if your s/o can’t take care of a sick child, then it’s up to you.  Use your best judgment of whether this qualifies as a good excuse for calling out but it’s hard for any supervisor to say it’s illegitimate.

      2. Your car broke down

      You did your best to make it to your shift but your stupid vehicle didn’t cooperate. Now you’re waiting for a tow truck, sitting at the repair shop, or just stuck at home.  You’ll be in for your shift tomorrow after your ride is fixed or you’ve made other arrangements. This is also one of the great excuses for being late to work.

      Here are some common vehicle problems that could cause you to miss work:

      • The battery died
      • Flat tire
      • Engine failure
      • The car wouldn’t start
      • You ran out of gas
      • Your windshield broke
      • Misplaced or lost your car keys

      mother in greenish sweater holding hands with daughter nurse while sitting on the couch

      3. You need to go take care of an elderly parent

      If you’re at that age where your parents are getting old, then it’s likely on your shoulders to take care of them when they need help.  You spend so much time nursing other people that when your family is in need, you better believe you’ll be there to help out.

      4. Your house or condo burst a pipe

      You woke up to half a foot of standing water in your bedroom because a pipe burst somewhere.  You’ve shut off the water, and called the plumber or the landlord, but you’ll need to stay home and deal with the situation.

      5. You woke up feeling sick

      You felt fine going to bed but woke up feeling bad.  Maybe it’s a cold or flu, a stomach bug, or a nasty migraine – you don’t feel like you can be your productive self and give your patients the care they deserve today.

      Additional good excuses for nurses to call in sick

      Maybe you aren’t sick but you still can’t make it to work today.  Regardless of the actual reason, you’ll probably need an excuse to call out of your shift.  For inspiration, check out our list of random excuses for nurses to call in a shift.

      1. The weather is too bad

      This is an especially great excuse in the winter when a massive dumping of snow has been known to shut a city down.  Similarly, heavy rains, high wind speeds, flooding, and more would have the same effect.  Of course, the weather excuse isn’t one you can just use out of the blue, because everyone at your hospital will have the same problem.

      2. You broke a tooth

      You were eating dinner last night, or breakfast this morning and you cracked or chipped a tooth.  It’s causing you pain and you’ve booked an appointment with your dentist to have it fixed before it gets worse.  That’s your excuse for missing your shift today.

      3. You witnessed a crime

      While you were on your way to work, you witnessed a purse snatching or a car theft.  You phoned the police and now you need to head to the station and give a statement.  It could take a while, so you need to cancel your shift.

      4. You got mugged

      Maybe instead of witnessing a crime, you were directly involved yourself.  We hope it’s not true, but saying you got mugged for your wallet or mobile phone can be a good random excuse for a nurse to call out of work.

      blonde woman has her hands to her mouth while wearing a plaid shirt as she is being consoled by a group of friends

      5. Your friend is having a rough time

      One of your close friends is having a bad time and they need your support.  You’re worried about their mental state, so you’re taking a day off work to talk things through and help them get back on their feet.

      6. You’ve been summoned for jury duty

      Don’t scoff, it happens.  Being summoned for jury duty isn’t optional, so if that letter arrives in your mailbox, then at least you’ll have a good excuse to get out of your nursing shift.

      7. There was a death in the family

      In the unfortunate event that a family member has passed away, there are any number of reasons that you might not be able to make it to work today.  This isn’t an excuse for nurses to cancel a shift you’ll want to use unless it’s true.

      9. Home renovations needed your attention

      You’re in the process of having your kitchen remodeled and you need to be onsite today so you can make sure things get done properly.  Renovations aren’t cheap, so it should be totally understandable that you’ll want to be present when the important touches happen.

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      When would excuses for nurses to call in sick be appropriate?

      As a nurse, you are a vital pillar of the healthcare system, and without you, hospitals and care facilities would cease to function properly.  Society needs nurses, so maybe that’s why you often get treated as if you are machines, not flesh and blood humans that get sick or mentally fatigued yourselves.  The demanding nature of the work and the regular contact with sick people means you could also end up feeling under the weather more than most people.

      In reality, you shouldn’t really be too concerned with choosing the best excuse to call in sick, because it’s important that nurses be fit and on top of their game when on shift.  Unfortunately, due to the caring nature of nurses (which is why you chose the profession) means you’ll probably do your utmost not to call in sick, or feel guilty about it if you do.

      Nurses should stay at home if they are:

      • Suffering from a contagious illness or infection
        • Coughing
        • Sneezing
        • Fever
        • Stomach illness (diarrhea, nausea, cramps)
        • Infection
        • Body aches & pains
      • Exhausted or fatigued
      • Suffering from emotional problems or mental strain
      • Unable to focus on work and their patients

      Remember, the last thing you want to do is spread your illness to co-workers or patients, or make a mistake because you weren’t feeling well.  That’s why all you need to say to get out of a shift is that you aren’t feeling well and need to take a day off.

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