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advice: program didn't give enough vacation

Discussion in 'General Residency Issues' started by Mindart, Aug 13, 2011.

  1. Mindart

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    Hey,
    I am not quite sure what to do. My program is supposed to give 20 business days of vacation, however while everyone else got 20 days I only got 18 days. In addition, vacation time is broken down in 3 different blocks, and one of the blocks is just 5 days Mond through Friday while I am on call the previous Sunday and the following both Saturday and Sunday, so not even a full week of vacation. When I approached the program about the discrepancy in vacation days they didn't even apologize. They told the discrepancy is due to the other service I am on as part of the intern year and didn't even try to contact that service and fix it. They also suggested that I try to switch those call days with other people instead of trying to fix it themselves. :wtf:
    I am very disappointed and not sure how to approach this. I dont' want to spoil the relationship with the program directors and coordinators but I do also believe that this situation is really unfair and they should in the least apologize for this and try to fix it.

    Any advice? May be I am expecting too much?
     
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  3. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    Look at your contract. Is it stated in black and white? If it is, it is straightforward breach (and I am not a lawyer, thank God and all that is holy).

    If it's not in your contract, then I'm not sure of any recourse.
     
  4. B-Bone

    B-Bone Attending
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    vacation my intern year was always only monday through friday. we generally had to work the preceding saturday (at least, if not sunday as well) and be back at work the next saturday. Of course if you were on an outpatient rotation (of which I had none), you might get a total of 6-7 days off if you were lucky. You stated that your contract gives you 20 business days. Those are monday thru friday (which it sounds like you got). The whole situation blows and it's a screw job by departments on already overworked residents, but I think it's pretty common. Probably best to suck it up. Or blow up at your program director and get blackballed and have a miserable residency experience. you know, whatever.
     
  5. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    OP, you already know that the program isn't interested in doing anything about it. So stop while you're ahead and try to switch calls with some of your classmates like they told you to do. Also, let go of the attitude about things being unfair and wanting your program to apologize to you, etc. Besides it being laughably naive to expect an apology, I guarantee you that everyone in your residency class thinks their schedule is unfair; ask around and you'll see. I guess that's what makes the schedules "fair": no one is happy with theirs. :hungover:

    FWIW, I'm on nights right before my first vacation week too, and I'm not happy about it either. Hopefully I can switch with someone, but if not, I'll sleep most of the first day, and my family will just have to deal. I've already told them, and it is what it is.
     
  6. At least you learned a valuable life lesson: don't expect to be treated equally as others in your position. Sometimes you will be the lucky one with an extra day or 2 of vacay than everyone else. Sometimes you will draw the short stick. I would seriously not make a fuss. You brought it to their attention, and they didnt care, so there is nothing else you can do. Plus, It is only 2 days, I'm sure there are people who got way more of a raw deal out there.
     
  7. mlw03

    mlw03 Senior Member
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    your status still says med students, so i assume you're a pgy1. i agree with the others who've said not to make a big deal out of this. try to switch around call - if you're in a decent size program this should be doable, and it's something you should get used to doing (trading calls to help each other out that is). getting a reputation as a whiner early on will make your life unpleasant.

     
  8. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    Honestly, 18 vs. 20 is no big deal. I wouldn't complain or cry about it. Sure, it would be frustrating, but it's not something I'd make a big deal over.
     
  9. EM_Rebuilder

    EM_Rebuilder Member
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    Pick your battles...

    Two days extra off your intern year is not one worth fighting. You also do not want to be labeled as 'that guy'.

    Life isnt always fair... its only TWO days... Come on....
     
  10. MJB

    MJB Senior Member
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    Just take two more days off?


    I really don't get how you got "cheated" out of days off. Can you elaborate?
     
  11. mlw03

    mlw03 Senior Member
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    a somewhat jerky option would be to take two "sick" days. i'm not advocating it, and wouldn't do it myself, but i'm sure it's been done.
     
  12. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    Everyone does it. Seen seniors do it.
     
  13. Smurfette

    Smurfette Antagonized by Azrael
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    Um...no, not typical. In 5 years of residency, I never saw anyone take a sick day to compensate for a missed vacation day. And we had 50-60 residents total in my program. Never heard of anyone from other departments doing that either. I'm sure "it's been done", but it's not common.
     
  14. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    I highly doubt someone is going to say "I'm taking a day off b/c I didn't get all my vacay days as I was supposed to"

    :laugh: C'mon...
     
  15. the alchemist

    the alchemist Senior Member
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    and besides, taking a "sick day" even when u're sick means that ur colleagues have to pick up the slack 4 u. i can't imagine that ppl would find it too cool if they found out someone took a "sick day" for a vacay or even a staycay.
     
  16. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    I agree, just saying, sick days happen and not for the best of reasons. No one is verifying whether or not you're truly sick. If you're truly sick, though, you should stay out.
     
  17. 45408

    45408 aw buddy
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    She's a surgeon, so she probably didn't see anyone take any sick days at all, for any reason. My chief resident last year said he never saw anyone take a sick day in his 5 years as a surgery resident. There was a lone exception in his last month, when someone had an operation.

    If you leave looking chipper one day, miss a day, and come back looking fine, I'm pretty sure people will be highly suspicious. Likewise if it happens on a Friday before your weekend off.
     
  18. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    Did I specify that it happens in surgery? I don't care if it doesn't happen in surgery. I just said that it happens.
     
  19. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    I agree. People can be suspicious, but it still happens nonetheless. People will bitch about it, but it still happens. I probably shouldn't have said "everyone" and in that case I retract that word from the initial post.
     
  20. Janedoedoctor

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    Perhaps I missed it, but isn't the number of vacation days in your contract? Programs can mess around with residents a lot, but they will have to honor the contract.
    TS, if you signed a contract that says X number of vacations days, I suggest you just send the secretary an email saying that you are entitled to X days, you got Y, and ask her when it would be most convenient for you to take the remaining days. They really have no choice, and I cannot imagine any hospital service coming to a grinding halt because one resident is absent for 2 days more than planned.
     
  21. Good idea. Make a big fuss over 2 days that you are allowed to trade. I'm sure that won't backfire.
     
  22. peppy

    peppy Senior Member
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    The way I read the first post, even if he switches those calls he will still only get 18 days off. It's just that on top of screwing him out of 2 days they also gave him crummy calls around his other vacation time.
    I do feel that simply taking 2 days of vacation from someone is not acceptable, just as it would not be acceptable if a program decided not to pay a resident the amount that they said they would in the contract.
    The issue of how to address it is tricky though. Have you spoken to anyone on the other service that you're on when you're supposed to be getting this vacation time to see if you can work something out with them? Might also be worth asking the chief resident in your department for advice on how to handle this - they might be more sympathetic since they're closer to having been in your shoes.

    The sick day issue is definitely program dependent. There are definitely programs where calling in sick is simply not acceptable, but in contrast my program allows us to take sick days pretty liberally. I haven't taken any sick days myself but I wouldn't hesitate to take one if I really needed to. Yes, it is a bummer to have to cover for other people, but it's not that big of a deal when you know what goes around comes around and they will cover for you in return if you need it. In any good-sized program, sooner or later someone will go on maternity leave or medical leave and everyone else has to pick up the slack. That's just how it is.
     
  23. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    You're supposed to get 20 days, so you should get 20 days. Your program not giving it to you shows sloppiness and a lack of concern for their residents on their part. The call around your vacation sucks, but I'm guessing that's happening to other people, too. If your program is flexible with trading calls, that's a good way to fix it.

    As for the vacation, I'm not sure how to deal with it, either. Two extra days should not be a big deal, though -- there should be some way to work it out. Is there some way you could try to contact this other service to work out the vacation issue?
     
  24. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    Sure, people complain about their schedules, but giving someone less than their guaranteed vacation time is different than assigning call at inconvenient times, putting night float at bad times, etc.. Your contract says you should get 20 days of vacation, so you should get 20 days of vacation. These other irritations aren't contractual violations, so there is a difference.

    Programs should make sure the schedules follow the residents' contracts and that they're compliant with ACGME rules. These are reasonable expectations are our part.
     
  25. michaelrack

    michaelrack All In at the wrong time
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    A lot depends on whether it is in your contract with the residency, the hospital (if you are not directly employed by the residency program), or both.

    My guess is that all you are legally entitled to is to be paid for the unused vacation days when you leave employment, but a lot depends on the specific wording of the contract(s).
    Hopefully your residency will do the right thing and give you the 2 vacation days.
     
  26. MJB

    MJB Senior Member
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    Exactly. It's called professionalism.



    That said, something about this whole thread just isn't adding up. Seems like there is information missing.






    If I wasn't getting my vacation days I'd say something. If we don't use them, we lose them.
     
  27. DHT

    DHT The Most Potent Androgen
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    If I were in your position, I would suck it up and tell myself that life isn't fair. This is definitely not worth pursuing and CERTAINLY not worth getting your PD involved. Expecting your program to apologize is almost as ludicrous as expecting them to work out your call schedule for you. 18 out of 20 days is not that bad. If it were 15/20 I would definitely say something, but in the end what will make you feel worse: working 2 more days in the entire year, or annoying your program and potentially spoiling your relationship with them. You've already brought it up once and they don't seem overly concerned about it and its unlikely that complaining more will change their mind.

    My advice would be find someone to switch calls with you before or after your vacation, move on, and don't make a big deal about it.
     
  28. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    So why the hostility toward this guy for wanting what he has a right to? Switching calls is one thing, but that doesn't solve the whole his program shortchanging him on his vacation. Next you guys will be saying it's OK if his program decides to randomly pay him less than his contract states.
     
  29. No hostility. Just saying its not a big enough deal to justify pursuing further. He already tried to approach the program and they blew him off. Sure, he could make a big deal out of it, but this would most likely lead to the administrators/PD thinking of him as a whiner for fighting, and forcing the program to give you an extra days by showing them your contract. Are 2 days REALLY that important to risk your reputation with your program? Its unfortunate he loses 2 days, but like I said before, residents are not treated equally. Some get more black weekends, some get more weeks of night float, some rotate on services that are understaffed that month; this is just the luck of the draw.
     
  30. Substance

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    If your contract states you have 20 days of vacation, then you are entitled to 20 days of vacation.

    All these bozos commenting that you should "suck it up" are the same bozos that will see their billings dissipate in the future as insurance companies expect them to do more free work.

    Doctors are idiots. Get your heads out of your asses and can it with the gungho altruism.
     
  31. You have to pick your battles wisely. Residency is not the place for them, IMO. I'm not saying he has to suck it up. If he really wants those days, and they are indeed in his contract, he can fight for them. But he better be prepared for any negative repercussions.
     
  32. harmnot

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    Couldn't agree more. Ofcourse you have to be prepared for the unfavorable response-which is very likely-but its still within your rights to question the obvious error. I would caution the OP to be diplomatic and let it go if all else fails. I've noticed that unlike nurses, doctors have learned to just take whatever is given to them. Their voices have become muted so to speak. There was no outrage when Obama tried to paint doctors as money hungry or negligent. I digress...sorry.
     
  33. Janedoedoctor

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    I really think you're beind paranoid here. And doing the profession a disservice.
    You are right, there are a lot of things on which a resident has to compromise. We basically do not have any leverage against our superiors in any conflict thay may occur. We have to 'bow our heads' a lot.

    But the one thing that a program has to respect is the written contract they have with their residents. They cannot lessen your pay when they want to. They cannot withdraw your health insurance when they feel like it. And they cannot touch your number of vacation days (assuming that is in the contract).
    Residents who allow their program to do so are chipping away at their own and their future collegues' status.

    There is nothing the OP can do about those calls planned around his vacation. Because that is NOT in the contract.

    And there is no need to involve the PD in this. He doesn't personally make the schedules. There must be some kind of secretary/coordinator type of person who does this. OP should contact them and ask them to rectify their scheduling mistake (which is probably all there is to this situation).
     
  34. DHT

    DHT The Most Potent Androgen
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    I think it is quite a stretch to say that my advice is the reason the government and insurance companies are screwing doctors. Trust me, it was not based any sense of altruism towards patients or the medical field in general. I was only concerned about the OP's self preservation and protection of her standing within their own department. She is going to require letters and phone calls from the PD/Chairman in a couple years (psych is a short residency) and it would be unfortunate to start off on the wrong foot, even if she is right. I just didn't want her to make a big deal over something relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

    However, based on the subsequent posts I have seen the errors of my ways and have decided to change my advice. OP, you need to march right into your chairmans office (unannounced of course) and slap him right in the face (so he knows you're serious). Then demand that you get the 2 additional days that you are entitled to, after all trying to unwind with only 18 days off is a joke. If the initial assault was strong enough, your chairman will likely still be reeling from the attack and will definitely submit to your demands. Next you need to order the program secretary to work out your call schedule for you, because you aren't anyone's b***h. At the end, spit in her face and tell her to make sure it doesn't happen again (believe me, it wont). Everyone involved will appreciate your militant fortitude and will likely recommend you for the congressional medal of honor. Once the senate gets wind of your heroics, they will call an emergency session of congress to repeal the SGR. Physicians everywhere will rejoice.

    This advice is completely serious, no flames please.
     
    #33 DHT, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
  35. shopsteward

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    :laugh:

    The heart of the matter on this thread is that very few people ever get taught how to negotiate: they don't recognise when it's necessary, they don't identify the right person to negotiate with, they don't understand the parameters of what it is possible to achieve or employ the right tactics to achieve it. Some people seem to have an almost instinctive understanding of negotiation, which I suspect they learn from growing up in families that use it. Often these instinctive negotiators are the people who seem to have charmed lives. For everyone else, it's a skill to learn which will immeasurably improve their quality of life, and that of everyone around them.

    OP, if you take this on, you need to approach the right person, which means the person at the lowest level in your organisation who will both understand the issue and have the power to do something about it. This is likely to be an administrator of some sort. You might want to see whether there is someone with more status in the program (resident adviser, chief resident, etc) who will join with you in approaching this person. When you approach your chosen target, you need to be calm and non-confrontational, and approach them at a moment when they can give you their time and attention without being interrupted or having their minds on other things - making a short appointment is a good idea (you shouldn't need a long time). You need to explain the problem: give them a piece of paper which gives your dates of leave in table form and counts them up to 18, and another piece of paper which copies your contract entitlement of 20 days on it. Try to suggest various solutions which will give you the two extra days at the least difficulty to the person you are approaching and the least knock-on harm to others: a resident adviser or chief resident, or someone else expert in scheduling at your program is the person to help you with this. Would you accept extra pay instead of the leave? If so, have this as a suggestion in case the schedules can't be changed. If your chosen contact doesn't accept any of your suggestions and doesn't have any of their own, ask whether they can take the problem to their boss. If you are given a final turn-down, ask for the decision to be put in writing as this may help change minds (if someone puts a breach of contract in writing they are idiots).
     
  36. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    I agree the program shouldn't be able to violate the contract, but I got the impression that the OP's main complaint was the scheduling, i.e., having five days in a row off instead of seven. I'm just kind of skeptical that a program would violate a written contract and then blow the OP off when s/he brought it to their attention. But who knows, the OP hasn't been back to clarify.
     
  37. SoCuteMD

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    I have to say that I feel differently than almost everyone else in this thread. I'd advocate for my 20 days of vacation (understanding that it's not necessarily going to be scheduled in my ideal way). It's in my contract, the same way my salary is. You wouldn't hesitate to speak up if they weren't paying your full salary, would you?
     
  38. DHT

    DHT The Most Potent Androgen
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    She's probably slapping the chairman in the face as we speak! :slap:
     
  39. mcl

    mcl
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    I've debated about whether or not it's wise to weigh in on this subject. I understand the OP's frustration and understand the impulse of others on the thread to join his/her righteous indignation that a contractual benefit is being denied. But I also understand that arranging vacation and educational leave is like putting together a huge puzzle in which everything has to fit together perfectly--and sometimes it just doesn't. You can't have too many residents out at the same time, or from the same service, or residents who cross-cover eacy other, or the residents assigned to night float. You have to be mindful of duty hour impacts for the residents who are working. You have to be respectful of agreements with other services (ie, my residents can't take vacation when they rotate with EM because 1) EM depends on having my residents in order to be fully staffed and 2) because my residents won't get enough EM experience to satisfy our RRC if they take vacation that month). In my department, at least, we give senior residents the right to pick their vacation weeks first.

    Reading the original post, it sounds to me like this resident has some outside rotations, either required or elective, which don't allow vacation time, skewing the parameters in which vacation time can be arranged. If that's the case, it's definitely unfortunate. But if the vacation scheduling is really that tight, there's no magic wand to wave that will create two additional days on the schedule (possibly apart from asking a more senior resident to change his/her vacation plans). The PD/coordinator could certainly have been more sympathetic or offered something in exchange (such as a payout or carry-forward of the two days). I'm not even sure that I have any advice for the OP. I just felt the need to point out that scheduling isn't easy and sometimes there's no way to avoid disparities.
     
  40. Janedoedoctor

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    I understand that the task of a scheduler is not an easy one...

    But if your HR manager came to you with their checkbook, and told you about the financial troubles they had, would you see this as a valid reason to get paid only half your wages while your collegues got theirs in full?
    Would you graciously waive the rest of the money?

    Of course not, no normal employee would.

    Then why do you believe it's normal to think of administrative troubles as a sufficient reason for denying a resident what's rightfully (and contractually) hers?
     
  41. mcl

    mcl
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    I honestly don't see how the scenario of losing half a salary correlates to losing 2/20 vacation days. The way I read the original post, the loss of the two days was an unfortunate side effect of the OP's schedule rather than an active effort by the program to deny a contractual benefit--especially if any of the outside rotations are electives. In the real world, "administrative troubles" often dictate what can and can't be done to accommodate individual requests.

    And yes, if HR told me that my travel budget had to be cut by 10% (a more likely scenario and more similar in scale to the OP's situation than a 50% salary cut) I wouldn't be happy about it, but I'd have to find a way to deal with it without alienating the people I have to work with.
     
  42. Substance

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    Give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

    If an organization does not have the resources to honor the contract, then that organization should have had the foresight to predict the lack of resources before they entered into said contract. The employee should not be expected to break contractual obligations because it makes the employer's operation more difficult.

    The OP should read the contract carefully, see if the vacation days are guaranteed and that the program does not have a renege clause, and if both are favorable, approach the admin with their grievance in a respectable courteous way and work out a solution.
     
  43. Janedoedoctor

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    Let me explain from another angle.
    Would the hospital get away with the exact same thing (not granting part of the contractually agreed number of vacation days) with a nurse, a secretary or even a janitor?

    They wouldn't, and they wouldn't even try. If they steal vacation days from normal employees, they will have a union conflict on their hands in no time and they know it.

    When the scheduler for the 'normal employees' runs into this situation, he hires temporary replacements, has beds closed, or comes up with some other solution.

    With residents, it's all fine, our programs can basically treat us however they want and they know it. They don't even try to come up with another solution besides making the resident bear it. The only limit to this 'creative scheduling' is what's in our contract, and the ACGME rules. They should be non-negotiable.
     
  44. MJB

    MJB Senior Member
    Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    So, no one in the ED ever takes vacation? Or, they just like to screw the residents on what sounds like is an off service rotation?

    Do you routinely write it off if your employer accidentally forgets a couple days of your pay, or maybe doesn't pay their portion of your benefits for a month?
     
  45. tkim

    tkim 10 cc's cordrazine
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    You perhaps skipped over the part where taking vacation during the ED block would not get them the RRC-required amount of experience. HTH.
     
  46. mcl

    mcl
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    My residents don't take vacation time for the 4 weeks they rotate with Emergency Medicine and I explained the reason in my post above. Conversely, the EM residents don't take vacation when they rotate on our service, either. I was just trying to give a concrete example of a real constraint which might explain the factors in play that lead to the OP, in effect, losing two vacation days. The program didn't "accidentally forget" about the resident's vacation days, they just seem unable to make it work in the constraints of the schedule given the OP's outside rotations.

    I am also sure that by approaching the PD in a calm and rational manner, the OP can find some type of solution that will benefit him/her in the long run.
     
  47. mcl

    mcl
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    Yes, actually, "normal employees" get told No on a surprisingly regular basis and, at least in my case, the university doesn't consider it to be stealing time. At my institution, when employees don't use all of their annual leave it converts to sick leave. At this moment I have 2600 hours of sick time coming to me. Of course, if I started using it without a medical reason I'm sure I'd be downrated on my annual evaluation. That makes it not worth it to me to insist that I be allowed to take the time I earned.

    I'm not trying to imply that the OP doesn't deserve the same 20 days that the other residents got or that the program shouldn't find a way to make it right in the future if they can't manage it in this academic year. I'm just trying to point out that programs sometimes have limitations that aren't apparent on the surface.
     
  48. Mattchiavelli

    5+ Year Member

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    So if a residency program decided they didn't want to pay the health insurance premiums in agreement with a residen't contract that would be ok too? And if a resident didn't want to come in for a week that'd be ok as well because "life isn't fair"?

    I'm with Substance on this one, this attitude is why we will see reimbursements plummet and the only thing people will do is complain on message boards to no one in particular.
     
  49. 45408

    45408 aw buddy
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    That's what I'm getting at. I haven't seen any of my fellow residents take a sick day at all except for the one person who had an operation. Now, we did have a transitional year intern call in sick...and by call in sick, I mean she didn't show up, and when we called her, she said she was sick. :thumbdown:
     
  50. Doctor4Life1769

    Doctor4Life1769 **tr0llin, ridin dirty**
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    I'd feel too much personal responsibility to consider pulling that. One should always contact someone (i.e. chief, program contact, etc) if they're sick. Even if they're FOS, not that I'd ever advocate that.
     

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