Whether it is the start of the school year or dropping temperatures, this time of year sees an uptick in contagious illnesses like the flu. Depending on the workplace, employees may be encouraged to stay home or expected to show up no matter what. Few workplaces understand the drawbacks of contagious workers like those in the health care field. Despite this understanding, a surprising number of health care professionals continue to report to work when they are sick, according to a recent study.
Patients at risk
The study used information gathered by online survey. It showed that around 40 percent of health care workers showed up to work despite having influenza-like illnesses. The danger posed by this should not be underestimated. According to the lead researcher in the study, patients exposed to an infected health care worker are five times more likely to contract the illness than those who are not.
The chronic problem of understaffing
When a hospital or care facility does not have adequate staff, patients and employees suffer. Understaffing has been tied to increases in medical malpractice injuries, neglect injuries and other harms suffered by patients. Understaffing can also put pressure on health care workers to report to work when they are sick. Instead of staying home to protect vulnerable patients from infection, workers come in to spread illness to colleagues and patients, alike. Hospitals that allow the dangerous problem of understaffing to persist are putting people at risk.
While it would be nice if all employers took steps to make sure sick workers stayed home to get better and avoid spreading illness, health care employers should go further. There is no excuse for hospitals to allow sick employees to endanger patients whose immune systems are often compromised. Sick workers should be required to stay away from vulnerable patients.
Source: News-Medical.net, “Many doctors, nurses working when sick with contagious infections,” by Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD, 2 November 2017