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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Staying Well at Work

Published November 17, 2014 9:35 AM by Debra Karplus
The Ebola virus has been in the headlines quite a bit lately.  I had never even heard of it before a few months ago!  There have been many other health scares in the news over the years.  I remember a few years back, photos of people on a large jet all wearing masks because of some virus that mysteriously seemed to go away.

But the one that really gets me nervous is MRSA.  Pronounced "mer-sa", I had to look it up to find out what that acronym was.  Now I know that this serious and scary staph infection that rears its ugly head in places like hospitals is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  Unlike other staph infections, it does not respond well to typical antibiotics.  That's what scares me about MRSA.

I don't remember encountering patients with MRSA when I was a young therapist in the 1970s, but MRSA has been around for a long time.  When our hospital or nursing home patients have MRSA, there is typically a limitation on who can enter their room, including a screening of visitors.  Those of us providing care to them must don protective gear, namely mask, gown and gloves.  I can only imagine how demeaning it must feel to our patients to have their caregivers garbed in this fashion, but so it goes.

So what can you do to stay healthy?  You undoubtedly know already know some of the ways to build a strong immune system, eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water, get good quality sleep, manage stress, and practice good hygiene, especially hand washing at work.  But life gets busy both at work and at home, and sometimes well-intentioned health habits fall by the wayside.

Have you ever gone to work when you weren't feeling well?  I believe we all have, right?  Whether you had a scratchy throat, a funny stomach, an unusual rash, or you thought you might be coming down with a head cold or a touch of the flu, you went to your job at a school, nursing home, hospital or other clinical setting, and popped a few cough drops or ibuprofen into your mouth, tucked discretely in your purse or pocket, as needed.

The pressure at work dictates going to work when able.  But putting yourself in close proximity to patients, especially in geriatric settings, when you are sick seems rather inconsiderate, in my opinion.  If I were the patient, I don't think I would appreciate seeing my sneezing occupational therapy practitioner and hearing her tell me that she thought it could be allergies but that she wasn't sure.

I'd love to hear from readers of this blog about this issue.  Anyone?

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