One more time: If you're sick, stay home!

In the June issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology there's a report on an outbreak of H1N1 influenza among healthcare workers in a Chicago hospital in May 2009. This was prior to the availability of the vaccine for this influenza strain. It should come as no surprise that 55% of the HCWs who developed swine flu worked for at least one day while symptomatic. Another example of presenteeism.

On a more positive note, the Connecticut legislature has passed a bill that mandates sick pay, which should help to reduce presenteeism, though lack of sick pay was likely not the problem at the Chicago hospital. Nonetheless, I don't think that most hospitals are making a sincere effort to keep sick workers at home.


  1. I do think when you have 60% hand hygiene compliance nationally (if we are lucky) and only 45% compliance with staying home when sick, we need to make significant investments in research to figure out ways to improve compliance. At some point, we have to figure out ways to motivate people to do the right thing, which most people want to do, I think.

    I think this study is another example of the lack of investment in public health research. You get what you pay for...

  2. Too many pressures to have people work sick, from lack of available float pool, to schedulers who don't encourage people to stay home. During the H1N1 concerns, we literally had to go floor to floor, sometimes taking staff temperatures and shooing them out the door, the scheduler was not happy, but it is my job. 12 hour shifts add an interesting wrinkle, even if individuals get sick pay. Many said they did not want to take off a shift because they were charged 12 hours, which they felt they could not afford to take (we use a Paid time off bank). Presenteeism is a huge issue.


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