Despite the risks to patients, healthcare providers often work while sick. It may seem counterintuitive, but approximately 80% of physicians will treat patients while feeling ill. At many hospitals, staff flu shots are mandatory, but the inoculation rate is only 72%. Experts say there are many reasons healthcare workers will drag themselves in to work when they are ill–a phenomenon known as “presenteeism.” Often, healthcare workers will come to work while sick to show that they are dedicated to their position, and to avoid creating more work for their colleagues.
Presenteeism, predictably, has drawbacks for patients. Sick healthcare workers are far less effective, and that lack of productivity results in costs at least two to three times greater than direct healthcare expenses – not to mention the possibility of exposing already vulnerable patients to germs. Nurses are especially susceptible to this phenomenon, but working while sick causes more medication errors, and increased incidents of patient falls.
The bottom line is that healthcare workers need to take proper precautions, such as getting flu shots, and should stay home when feeling under the weather.
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