Healthcare workers often go to work sick: study

Monday, November 6, 2017

Healthcare workers in clinical settings, such as long-term care facilities and hospitals, often refuse to stay home from work when experiencing influenza-like symptoms, risking the health and wellbeing of patients.

According to a new study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, four out of ten healthcare professionals (HCPs) will go to work despite there being higher concentrations of older patients with immunosuppression or severe chronic diseases in healthcare facilities.

“The statistics are alarming. At least one earlier study has shown that patients who are exposed to a healthcare worker who is sick are five times more likely to get a healthcare-associated infection,” said lead researcher Sophia Chiu, MD, MPH, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “We recommend all healthcare facilities take steps to support and encourage their staff to not work while they are sick.”

The annual study, conducted via a national online survey, collected data from 1,914 U.S.-based HCPs during the 2014-2015 influenza season. It assessed a variety of health occupations across multiple institutions in the U.S.: physicians; nurse practitioners and physician assistants; nurses; pharmacists; assistants/aides; other clinical HCP; nonclinical HCPs and students. Of those surveyed, 41.4 per cent reported working for a median duration of three days while experiencing symptoms.

The most common reasons for HCPs to opt from taking sick leave included feeling they could still perform work duties, not feeling “bad enough” to stay home, not feeling contagious and sensing a professional obligation to be present for coworkers. They also found it difficult to find someone to cover their shift. Almost half said they couldn’t afford to lose the pay.

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