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Toni Talks about PT Today

Calling in Sick

Published August 30, 2011 3:07 PM by Toni Patt

Last Saturday, I called in sick. That's very unusual for me. I never call in sick. I never miss work. This time I did. I have probably gone to work when I shouldn't have rather than call in sick. I can think of a few times in past months when I wished I had called in sick. This time I just felt bad and didn't have the energy to pretend otherwise.

My facility doesn't divide time off into sick time and vacation. We get paid time off (PTO) to use however we choose. Had I called in during the week ,I would have had to use one of those days to be paid. That policy has probably contributed more to sick people coming to work than anything else. I'm not saying people don't call in for other reasons. Just with that policy, the reason doesn't matter - it still costs PTO time.

Every one defines sick differently. I go with the basic definition of unable to work or tolerate being at work. Usually this only happens when I lose my voice, which happens about once a year. Others define sick more liberally. They also call in more often. I work with a few individuals who are sick much more than the rest of us. Their immune systems must be very weak.

Going into work enables the disease to be spread. Colds are one thing. They spread like wildfire no matter which precautions are taken. The flu is another matter. It can be contained as long as the sick person stays away from others. This is problematic in a hospital with hundreds of visitors a day. Even if staff is careful, no one is policing the visitors.

My biggest problem with calling in sick is feeling guilty. I worry that there won't be enough staff. I worry that my patients won't get seen. Once I make the decision to stay home, I enter an ongoing debate with myself about whether I was really sick enough to stay home. I only feel justified if I spend the day sleeping or unable to breathe.

I felt much better the next day. I felt justified that I had stayed home. That in itself made me feel better.


Agree with Jason and Dean.  The more we speak out about it and practice it ourselves, including sending staff home if we are in the supervisory position, the better chance we have of creating a healthier environment.  Thanks for being part of the solution!

I posted on this topic in the past and one person commented that in China it isn't uncommon to see people walking the streets with masks on when they are sick.  I can't see many in our society buying into that, but staying home when we are sick is a great alternative!

Janey Goude September 1, 2011 7:41 PM

I had to send one of my employees home the other week when she had a bad cold. She had also felt "guilty" about leaving us understaffed. I explained that I really could manage 1 or 2 days without her a lot better than if she infected more of my staff leading to multiple people being out. Wouldn't you know, a few days later, 1/2 of the staff who had worked with her that day were out sick. That resulted in having to reschedule patients and remaining staff being burdened. As a manager I would much rather people stay home when they are sick. Of course as you state, it is MUCH easier to do that here, where there are no limits on sick time and it is not part of PTO. Glad you took care of yourself!

Dean Metz August 31, 2011 2:07 AM

I tell people if you are sick or think you might be, stay home.  I do not want to be sick, the patients don't need it and I don't need to carry it home to my family.  I do get irritated with vistors who cough and sneeze on all the doorknobs and touch everything like it is not a big deal.  As far as co-workers calling in frequently - maybe they need more "mental health days" than the rest of the crew.  The patients survived without you, the other therapists worked a bit harder that day, but don't ever feel guilty.  

Jason August 30, 2011 10:44 PM

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