Primum non nocere- 4 things that a health care worker should do to prevent to get sick or when in sick


The health care workers (HCW) are as vulnerable as the rest of the population to infectious diseases. The majority of HCW despite that they are sick, will come to work in order to provide care to their patients. But, is this the best way to help our patients? Although infection control traditionally has centered on prevention of transmission of infections between patients, relatively little attention has been focused on the dangers of ill HCWs. A new study published on JAMA pediatrics use an anonymous survey of more than 900 physicians working at a large children’s hospital and focus on the role of “presenteeism”—going to work while experiencing symptoms—as a risk to patients. Over 80% of respondents had worked with patients while sick; many pointed to a personal moral obligation they feel to the patient and a desire to avoid burdening colleagues but also identified a system that increasingly emphasizes productivity (Szymczak  JE, et al.  JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0684).

Identifying the problem and look after a solution, which is prioritizing patient safety,  should be central in any hospital planning. However, the HCW can contribute to this planning by following some basic principles. Here we point our 4 things that a HCW should do to prevent disease or when sick in order to protect his/her colleagues and patients:

  1. Is not all about you- The pull of ‘presenteeism’

One study suggested that presenteeism costs the American economy up to $150 billion US a year, as ill workers perform well below their usual levels while they pass on their ailments to their co-workers. A Cornell University study found that presenteeism could account for as much as 61 per cent of the total cost of worker illness — or as little as 18 per cent ( While to come to work feels to be the right thing to do, to spread a common cold or a severe infection to your patients or colleagues will not make you particularly popular. You should keep yourself at home than joining your team at your workplace.

  1. Exert positive peer pressure

Encourage colleagues who are sick to avoid  come to work. “Bosses need to pay attention to both sides of the coin of presenteeism and absenteeism,” said Gary Johns, a management professor at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. “Our peers are a stronger constraint than any policy,” Johns said (

  1. Take the flu shot

Vaccination significantly reduces the risk to get the flu. Do a favor to your peers and patients and take the flu shot every year. Renzo Bertolini of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says it’s critical that employers take a more active role: “They can come up with policies like offering free flu shots at work,” Bertolini said (

  1. Avoid to get sick at work

It is not a secret that hospitals are full of dangerous germs with many of the resistant to multiple antibiotics. Don’t bring those nasty guests with you at home: wash your hands thoroughly and often, avoid surfaces that may be contaminated – such as in washrooms- and use a hand sanitizer.


3 thoughts on “Primum non nocere- 4 things that a health care worker should do to prevent to get sick or when in sick

  1. Great post Andreas! You write very clearly and you have a good grasp on the conversational voice that I think is important for health blog posts. Your information seems very timely and well chosen from good sources. I would definitely take this as a blog of authority and that you know what you are talking about. One thing I would recommend is to double and triple check your grammar before posting. It can take somebody out of the post when they are reading little grammatical issues.

  2. The comment on encouraging others not to come to work . . . man I wish that would happen more often! There is definitely an unspoken rule about coming to work regardless of condition. It reminds me of the Ebola case and the healers! That one famous healer spread Ebola because people visited her a lot and they went to her funeral! If patients are coming to us for health, and we are sick, we can spread diseases rampantly! Here here for taking a sick day as a doc! Thanks Andreas!

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