Most doctors will advise you to stay home from work or school if you are sick. Not only do you need the rest, but if you are contagious with a cold or the flu or a stomach bug, you will pass your germs to many more people.
Well, apparently doctors don’t take their own advice!
A recent survey showed that most doctors do go to work when sick, even though they know they could infect their co-workers or patients.
A full 96 percent said they would work if they had symptoms of a cold, 77 percent said they would work if they had diarrhea, 54 percent said they would work if they were vomiting and 36 percent said they would work even if they knew for sure that they had the flu.
In addition, about half said they would work if they had a fever between 101 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit (38 to 39 degrees Celsius), and a quarter said they would work with a fever higher than 103 degrees.
Why, when they know better? Apparently their work ethic wins out over their medical judgement.
Many doctors in the survey said they felt bad about staying home because it could mean more work for their colleagues, the study found.
But I can’t throw stones. I can recall many times I went to work with the early stages (the most contagious!) of a cold. As the only nurse in a single physician’s practice, if I didn’t go to work there would be no one to pull charts, organize labs and x-rays, and take care of 20 or more patients.
At least that’s what I thought. The reality is that the office—the physician and the receptionist—would have managed somehow.
I remember one patient in particular who, when I handed her a paper gown and asked her to change into it, looked at me in horror and said, “You’re obviously sick, and I won’t touch that gown!” She asked me to show her the cupboard where the gowns were stored, and said she would get one herself.
She probably washed her hands like crazy as soon as I left the exam room 😕
She is the only patient that reprimanded me for going to work while sick, but I’ve never forgotten. In my defense, I was a very young and new nurse, and I was mostly concerned about my responsibility to the physician. I’m grateful to that patient for opening my eyes to a greater responsibility—to avoid willfully spreading disease.
I recently posted some tips to reduce your chances of catching a cold or the flu this year, including getting a flu shot and washing your hands effectively and frequently.
And you can help others by staying home if you’re sick, and keeping your kids home, too, when they’re sick. (No college cares in the least if an applicant has a perfect attendance record!).
You are the most contagious in the first few days of a cold or flu, as your symptoms are getting worse. Once they’ve peaked, you are generally not so contagious anymore.
I certainly understand that there can be financial consequences to missing work or keeping the kids home from school, but try to plan ahead and have a Plan B in place for when the inevitable cold virus strikes.
And don’t hesitate to speak up if you’re at the doctor’s office and s/he or one of the staff is sick! Let them know you don’t appreciate being subjected to unnecessary germs. Perhaps they will remember you as well as I remember that one patient of mine.
And did I mention, wash you hands, wash your hands, wash your hands?