Thursday, October 21, 2010

The New York Times: The Doctor Is In (but Shouldn’t Be)

When workers do not have the opportunity to earn paid sick days many decide to go to work despite being sick rather than lose their pay or possibly their job. Unfortunately, many workers without paid sick days are those that work with vulnerable populations (child care workers) and those that handle our food (cooks and servers). Even for those workers who have paid sick days many are discouraged from taking any time off to care for themselves or a loved one. Recently in the New York Times a doctor wrote about going to work sick and how that impacted himself, his co-workers, and his patients.

Below is an excerpt of the article:

One winter toward the end of my training, I came down with a cold. At first, the constant coughing and runny nose made me miserable; then they became tiring. To decrease the chances of spreading my germs, I had to tie on a mask every time I came into contact with patients, wash my hands so frequently my skin became raw and wipe down the phone receivers with alcohol when I answered a page. Unable to scratch, wipe or blow in the operating room without contaminating my hands, I learned that for a surgeon with a runny nose, there are no palatable options for the uncontrollable nasal effluvium; I had to wear two masks every time I scrubbed up for a case.

Within days of the onset of my symptoms, other clinicians on my team were felled with the same. For weeks, we passed the cold back and forth in what became a viral game of hot potato. Even if I felt well enough one day to breathe through my nose, taste the nursing station holiday cookies and laugh without spiraling into a coughing fit, I knew that it would be only a matter of days, if not hours, before I would become sick again, invariably with a virus that had mutated just enough in the interim to dodge any immunity built up during the last go-around.

For the rest of the article click here.

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