Culture change needed for healthcare workers

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Any seasoned HR professional will know how much damage someone can do by coming into work sick but it seems even the most knowledgeable employees still aren’t catching on.

In a recent survey seeking the input of physicians, nurses, midwives and other health-care professionals, ninety-five per cent said they believed working while sick would put patients at risk.

Shockingly, eighty-three per cent admitted they’d done just that at least once within the last year.

Reasons given by the 536 respondents were:
  • Not wanting to let colleagues down  - 98.7 per cent
  • Staffing concerns - 94.9 per cent
  • Not wanting to let patients down - 92.5 per cent
  • Fear of being ostracized by colleagues - 64 per cent
  • Concerns about the continuity of care - 63.8 per cent
Authors of the study, which was published in yesterday’s online issue of JAMA Pediatrics, say three main themes were recurrent in the comments section of the survey – all of which are applicable to the everyday office.

Logistical challenges – a lack of resources to accommodate sick leave, combined with the difficulties of finding someone to cover duties makes taking time off “a nightmare” and “brutal.”

Cultural norm – the shared, ingrained ethos of “physicians do not take days off” deterred many workers from staying home. Some recounted stories of employees working while receiving intravenous hydration.

Ambiguity – despite their own knowledge of human health, many respondents were uncertain of what symptoms constituted taking time off.
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