Addressing Mary’s failing health – age discrimination and employment act

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Mary Jones’ failing health, particularly her failing eyesight, is threatening patient safety; hence, Mary should be relieved of her nursing duties at the well-baby new-born nursery. Primarily, the role of nurses is to assist physicians in delivering high-quality and safe healthcare services. Managers in healthcare institutions have the primary role of ensuring that the conduct and capabilities of employees including nurses do not undermine patient safety and quality of healthcare services (Collier & Foster, 2014). In their daily duties, hospital managers have to balance between intolerance of unsafe workplace practices and avoiding apportioning blame to individual employees for errors in healthcare services delivery (Fisher, Lisa, Truxillo & Wallace, 2017). As a manager, I choose not to tolerate Mary’s incessant errors; thus, Mary should take accountability for her diminishing professional capabilities and resign or accept dismissal from her post as a nurse.

In regards to patient safety, hospital managers often tolerate errors that are made by nurses on isolated instances. However, managers must hold nurses accountable for their inaccuracies in healthcare services delivery if the nurses exhibit recurrence in error commissions (Fisher et al., 2017). Mary’s colleagues have complained severally about Mary’s increasing inability to fulfill her nursing duties. Clearly, Mary’s error of preparing a girl for circumcision was one of the many nursing inaccuracies that the 79-year old nurse has committed at the well-baby new-born nursery. Therefore, failure to dismiss Mary from her responsibilities may lead to more serious errors that will further undermine patient safety at the hospital.

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From the perspective of age discrimination, Mary Jones is a 79-year-old LVP who is protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 from dismissal from employment based on her advancing age. In particular, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employers from firing, laying off or harassing old nurses merely because of the nurses’ ageing (Fisher et al., 2017). However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not prohibit employers from dismissing old employees on grounds incompetence and diminishing abilities (Scott, 2004). Nursing is a labor-intensive occupation with demanding physical capabilities including functioning sense of sight and sound cardiovascular capacities. Currently, Mary Jones has cataracts and hypertension. Therefore, Mary’s deteriorating physicality is not protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; thus, dismissing Mary would not amount to violation of the Act.

Regarding employees’ rights, nurses including LVPs have a right to work within a healthcare environment safe not only for their patients but also safe for themselves. Safety in regards to work environment involves absence of harassment and discrimination (Collier & Foster, 2014). Common perpetrators of discrimination and harassment in healthcare institutions include supervisors, co-workers, and patients. In cases of discrimination based on age, nurses have a right to report such discriminatory workplace practices to relevant authorities. Upon dismissal from her nursing duties, Mary has a right to report any complaint related to age discrimination to relevant authorities, particularly state healthcare authorities (Collier & Foster, 2014). Therefore, Mary’s dismissal on grounds of failing health will be heard by appropriate appeal tribunals, and appropriate action will be taken by the hospital’s management based on the final verdict of the appeal.

In conclusion, managers face dilemmas whenever deciding whether to fire underperforming employees or tolerate the employees’ underperformances because of existing rights and legislations. The case of Mary Jones deserves dismissal because Mary’s medical errors are undermining patient safety at the hospital. Mary is entitled to appeal the dismissal, though the tribunal is likely to uphold the dismissal because the hospital’s management did not violate any rights and legislations in considering the role of incompetence and failing health in dismissing Mary Jones.

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  1. Collier, E & Foster, C. (2014). Teaching age and discrimination: A life course perspective. Nurse Education in Practice, 14(4), 333-337
  2. Fisher, G., Lisa, F., Truxillo, D & Wallace, L. (2017). Age discrimination: Potential for adverse impact and differential prediction related to age. Human Resource Management Review, 27(2), 316-327
  3. Scott, A. (2004). Age discrimination legislation and the employment of older workers. Labor Economics, 11(2), 219-241
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