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:
- 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 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/when-to-call-in-sick-1.776675). 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.
- 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 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/sick-doctors-admit-to-spreading-infections-at-work-1.3139583).
- 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 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/when-to-call-in-sick-1.776675).
- 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.