Saturday, May 10, 2008

What would you do?

Most of you know that I work as a social worker with Hospice and have for about 10 years now. Because we come in contact with families who are grieving, confused, and overwhelmed. The nurse and I come into the home and provide support from a week up to 2 years, depending on the case. In this case, we had been involved with the family for a year and a half, so we got to know them very well. Patient passed away and the family had all of us over for a "thank you" lunch last week, which was very nice. They were very thankful and expressed it many times. As we left, they handed us an envelope and told us to open it once we left. I knew what that meant. Once I opened it, there was a nice card with a check in it for a large amount of money. The family said that their mom, the patient, had decided to give each of us money for the gratitude she felt. She wrote these checks out two weeks before her death.

There is a very clear policy on accepting cash or checks from family members in our agency, as I am sure there are in other agencies. It says that we are not allowed to accept any gift more than $50. Well, this check was more than $50. Six of us employees received checks. The patient had also post dated the checks for October of 2008, hoping that we could cash them six months from now and not get caught. Now, we could all keep them, cash them in 6 months, and no one would probably even know. My internal guide said no from the beginning. Some other employees sat with their check for a couple days contemplating the pros and cons. It was an easy decision for me, but is not for everyone. Some people really needed the money. It's not that I didn't need the money, but I knew that it would complicate the relationship between myself and this family. In hospice, we never want to give the impression that we will give a family better care in hopes of them giving us all a gift. We give the same care to each family, whether they have a lot of money or whether they are scraping by. The RN and I ended up going back to the family and giving the check back, which was hard. The family wanted us to have it but understood. The funny thing was that the daughter took the check back, said, "O.k., I have now taken the checks back." She then slid them back to us and didn't say a word as if the room was being bugged. We kindly said that we really couldn't accept them. She understood, but really wanted to do this for us. What would you have done in this situation?

We were given many chances to take the money and the family was willing to keep everything quiet. The family wanted us to have it. I feel I did the right thing, but some would argue otherwise. Life is filled with many decisions, some which are easy to make and are clear and others which become gray in nature. We can always talk ourselves into anything if we do it long enough. Aside from my agency having a clear policy on this issue, I found out that I also have a clear policy of my own, and although it can be hard to execute at times, I know it is the right thing. The right thing is not always the easy thing. We had to tell our employer, which meant that everyone had to turn over the check. So by me making a decision, I also made the decision for 5 other people. We all talked about it, but it was interesting to be in a group where you had people who were on the other side of the fence. I had to stand up and do the right thing, but it wasn't the popular thing in every one's mind. We never stop learning and need to be prepared to always make the right choice, especially when you think of what you would tell your own children. How would I want my children to respond to a situation like this? Kids are always watching how their parents deal with situations, so we need to always be accountable. Rough week. What would you do?



Anonymous said...

Hello Robb. I have enjoyed keeping up with your family via the blog. Your sense of humor and good heart come shining through in your writing. The Mother's Day tribute to Rebecca is so lovely. As for your work dilemma, what a difficult situation. It's too bad this family did not donate the money to hospice directly to pay for continuing education, retreats, supplies, and other things that would enhance the program for future clients. How nice that the work of the hospice team meant so much to them but they really put you in an uncomfortable position as well meaning as the gesture was. You definitely did the right thing ethically and perhaps saved people from getting fired if the truth had come out at a later time. Well done. Hello to Rebecca and the boys. Your, friend, Anne Torvik

illahee said...

i wouldn't have taken the money, either. and i think it's better that everything is out in the open, even if some wanted to keep the money. for me, personally, it would have eaten me up inside and really bothered me for a long time. eventually, it probably would have affected my work.

anyway, what a difficult decision. good for you.