Clocking out: Nurses refusing to work in a time of pandemic

Document Type


Publication Date



Social science research has long critiqued how professional ideals of public service can ignore chronic problems within the healthcare industry, placing unfair burden on the “heroism” of individual workers. Yet, fewer studies investigate how healthcare professionals actively negotiate such demands for service, amidst increasing workplace pressures and risks. This paper studies Filipino nurses' response to a government policy that banned them from working overseas in order to channel their labor to local hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on 51 in-depth interviews, we argue that nurses' willingness to serve in the Philippines' COVID-19 hospitals hinged on the point at which the deployment ban interrupted their emigration trajectories. Specifically, nurses' decision to heed their government's call to service depended on whether they saw local hospital experience as valuable for their plans of working abroad. We introduce the concept of “clocking out” to describe how aspiring nurse migrants set limits to the time they devote to local service, as they pursue a career pathway beyond national borders. We discuss how this concept can inform scholarship on nurse retention and professional values, especially for developing nations in times of crisis.