I work when I am sick. I have never missed a scheduled work day. I have worked with a stomach virus… see a patient, go to the bathroom and puke…finish a chart…more puking. Most commonly I work through coughs, colds and congestion. My parents instilled in me a good work ethic and so I go to work sick. People who don’t annoy me.
This is why the comments on Leslie Kane’s Blog The Kane Scrutiny got me really fired up. Ms. Kane presents the question Should Doctors Go To Work When They Are Sick? The blog post notes the obvious argument for not coming to work ill; you will transmit infection to others. Kane’s blog notes that despite this knowledge, doctors still come to work sick. They give many reasons for this behavior; inconvenience of rescheduling patient appointments, lost income related to days missed at work and the concern that rescheduling patient appointments could result in patients leaving their practice.
I see the logic of staying home, however by simply entering the hospital or clinic where you work, your patients are exposing themselves to disease. After all, they are sitting next to the six year old girl with strep and the 82 year old woman with pneumonia and the 24 year old with an leaky MRSA-filled abscess and no band-aid in the waiting room. My view: exposure to one more cold won’t do any more harm.
Furthermore, I work in the ER. Someone has to be there working 24/7. Have you ever tried to contact a coworker to come in and cover your Saturday overnight shift? That is a good way to lose your job and your friends. I am paid hourly. I don’t get sick days. If I call in sick it will cost me $600-800 dollars each shift. A common cold may last a week. I am not going to let a runny nose result in $2,400 or more dollars in lost wages. The reality is, in most hospital and clinic settings it is impractical to stay home when you are sick. If you work with immunocomprimised children, yes, stay home, but otherwise grab a mask from the supply closet, use extra antibacterial hand gel and show up.