Health Care Workers Still Go To Work When Sick

A question that was always joked about was “Can you call in sick if you work at the doctors?” While the answer is still a mystery, but a survey by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention show that 40% of health care professionals who had influenza symptoms during the last flu season, did not stay home from work.

The survey of 1,914 health care workers was conducted during the 2014-2015 flu season. The survey found that 414 respondents who reported at least one symptom – fever, sore throat, cough, etc. – 183 still chose to still go to work.

Photo: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

“The statistics are alarming,” lead researcher Dr. Sophia Chiu said. “At least one earlier study has shown that patients who are exposed to a health care worker who is sick are five times more likely to get a health care-associated infection. We recommend all health care facilities take steps to support and encourage their staff to not work while they are sick.”

The most common reasons that the health care professionals gave were:

  • Not feeling “bad enough” to miss work

  • Did not think they were contagious

  • Could still perform their job

  • Obligation to colleagues

  • Too difficult to find co-workers to cover shifts

The researchers suggest that employers should re-evaluate paid sick leave policies, modifying the “social and cultural norms” with health care professional and employing backup workers to relieve sick employees. Also making sure that employers provide “clear communication of workplace policies and expectations” for health care workers.

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