Going to Work Sick

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Going to Work Sick

Because everyone knows nurses never get sick!

By Working Nurse
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Although nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers know better than anyone that coming to work sick puts coworkers and patients at risk, we’ve all done it and some of us even make a habit of it. A new study published July 6 in the online edition of JAMA Pediatrics seeks to better understand why.

Physician, Heal Thyself

The study involved an anonymous survey of 536 attending physicians and advanced practice clinicians (including physician assistants and advanced practice RNs) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The results illustrate a sizeable gap between what clinicians understand about the risk of working while sick and what they actually do in practice.

More than 95 percent of respondents acknowledged that coming into work while ill posed a hazard to patients, but 83 percent admitted that they had done so at least once in the past year. Surprisingly, physicians were significantly more likely than other clinicians to do so.

The offenders’ symptoms weren’t limited to scratchy throats or body aches either. More than 55 percent of all respondents said they’d come to work with acute respiratory symptoms, 30 percent while suffering diarrhea, 16 percent with a fever and 5 percent while vomiting.

Common Excuses

The reasons respondents gave for working with symptoms like these will probably sound familiar if you’ve ever been reluctant to take a sick day: concerns about leaving patients and coworkers in the lurch (65 percent), fear of being called unprofessional for taking sick time (61 percent) or just being unsure whether the symptoms really justify calling in sick (57 percent).

These results suggest that hospitals need more effective strategies to ensure adequate coverage for providers who are under the weather. Clearly, work also needs to be done on changing institutional culture so that clinicians don’t have to fear professional scorn or resentment for choosing to convalesce at home.

The authors also suggest that hospitals may need to more explicitly define how sick is too sick for a clinician to come into work. Most hospitals have policies barring visitors with a cough or other symptoms, but surprisingly few facilities have specific policies for providers, leaving the decision to each individual’s judgment. As this study indicates, that may not be enough.

You can read the full study in the “Online First” section of JAMA Pediatrics Journal

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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