Study: 4 in 10 Healthcare Professionals Go to Work Sick

By on 6:28 AM

The results of a new study indicate that more than 40% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) work while sick.

The study's findings were published in American Journal of Infection Control, the journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

According to an APIC news release, researchers conducted a national online survey during the 2014-2015 influenza season, gathering data from more than 1,900 HCPs. Respondents were asked to self-report influenza-like illness (ILI), which is defined as the combination of a fever and cough or sore throat. The survey assessed a range of occupations across multiple types of organizations. This included physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and pharmacists in hospitals, ambulatory care, physician offices, long-term care facilities and other settings.

Survey findings included the following:
  • More than 400 HCPs reported ILI. Of these, more than 41 reported working for a median duration of three days while experiencing influenza-like symptoms.
  • Hospital-based HCPs had the highest frequency of working with ILI at more than 49.
  • Clinical professional HCPs were the most likely to work with ILI at more than 44%, with pharmacists at more than 67% and physicians at more than 63% among those with the highest frequency.
  • Among the HCPs reporting ILI who felt they could still perform their job duties, 39% sought medical attention for their symptoms, as did 54% percent of those who did not think they were contagious.
  • Nearly 50% of HCPs in long-term care settings who reported for work when sick reported doing so because they couldn't afford to lose the pay.
"The statistics are alarming," said lead researcher Sophia Chiu, MD, MPH, a medical officer at the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, according to the release. "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. We recommend all healthcare facilities take steps to support and encourage their staff to not work while they are sick."

As noted in the study's conclusion, "To reduce HCP-associated influenza transmission, interventions should target HCP misconceptions about working while ill and consider the influence of paid sick leave policies."

Access the study here.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.