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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Flu-id Thinking: Do Your Part to Educate

Published October 26, 2009 5:48 PM by Valerie Newitt

A friend called me the other day and read an H1N1 memo that had been distributed to the approximately 120 employees at her Southeastern Pennsylvania office. It read:

Workers are expected to be at their work stations. If you have been exposed to H1N1, that does not mean you are sick or should stay home. If you do feel you must report off sick, we have a right to require a note from a doctor's office or emergency department to identify if the illness is, or is not, H1N1. We will also require written medical clearance before you may return to work.

Might Doesn't Always Make Right

In the interest of reducing employee malingering, this employer will be sending sick, maybe sick, or not-even-sick employees to overburdened healthcare providers to prove a sick day is legitimate, or not. The memo, however well-intentioned, actually sends a message to workers that calling off sick may suggest a misuse of sick leave. So they will be "taxed," not only with a doctor's visit to stay out, but also one to return. Since this particular company has a very non-comprehensive healthcare plan, this also will require affected employees, already concerned about looking like malingerers, to dig into their sometimes shallow pockets for hefty co-pays. The result? They'll report to work. They'll tough-it-out. They'll sit at their shared computer keyboards and spread germs like crazy. That's scary.

Where Is Plan B?

Sadly, this company seems to be exerting little effort to have a viable "Plan B" in the event of a widespread flu situation at the office. No one has suggested a chain of work in the event of unusual absenteeism; there are no proposed work-from-home alternatives being circulated by administrative memos. And there aren't even any hand washing advisories tacked to the lunch room walls. Certainly no 'flu'-id thinkers at work there.

I am getting nearly obsessive in my interest in asking what is being done to stem the spread of flu at area businesses. The bank where my son works has been more "proactive" than most: one bottle of hand sanitizer and a box of Kleenex. That beats what many people have told me about their employers' plans which are often identical in description: nothing.

Even Small Efforts Count

I suggest every one of us reach out and "adopt" just one business or organization to educate, in some manner. I am not a nurse, so my means of "educating" the original company was to write to a manager there and suggest he relax -- not tighten -- the sick leave policy. Better to have one malingerer stay home than 10 good workers being infected by someone who is really sick on the job. And it goes without saying, I've also adopted my son's bank: They now have four giant bottles of hand sanitizer, multiple boxes of Kleenex and a continuing, effusive sermon from this mother-turned-customer about the necessity of washing hands whenever possible. Amen.



We are very active with employees and sick time.All of them require Dr. notes to return to work.

susan, Supervisor - rn, spruce manor rehab center October 29, 2009 11:12 AM
reading PA

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