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Toni Talks about PT Today

Working While Sick

Published January 8, 2014 3:58 PM by Toni Patt

Deciding whether or not to call in sick to work is one of those decisions everyone dreads. Some don't want to let their coworkers down. Others don't want to waste the PTO. I've never heard a universal guideline published. Although the unspoken one seems to be don't come in if you're contagious.

I've been facing that dilemma the past few days. I have whatever is making the rounds. I think I'm the third in the department to fall victim. It's very insidious. You don't feel bad in the morning but come noon and it's another story. I generally decide about work based on how I feel in the morning, not how I think I might feel, so it's hard to know.

I worked three days progressively feeling worse. I didn't have a fever, wasn't sneezing and although I was coughing, I wore a mask. When I caught myself wrapping up in an extra patient blanket right before lunch, I decided it was time to leave. I went right to one of those stop-in clinics that can be found next to almost any pharmacy.

I was in luck. I had a sore throat and therefore was given antibiotics and prescription cough medicine. Maybe lucky isn't the right word. That was a Friday. I slept two days and went back on Monday. Yes, I felt better. No, I wasn't contagious. I probably should have stayed home anyway. Before the end of the day, everyone in the department asked me why I hadn't gone to the doctor yet. I'm guessing I didn't look so good.

Or, rather, I didn't sound good. Even though the disease process itself was relaxing its grip, the cough was much worse. I was coughing so hard I had to sit when I coughed to keep my back from hurting. One of the physicians seated a few feet away glared at me so hard I thought I was about to get another prescription gratis.

Thus sickness is more the appearance of being sick, rather than actual illness. No one tried to send me home when I really was sick. As soon as I started coughing, everyone thought I should leave. It would have been smoother if I could have taken the cough medicine, but it contains something I wouldn't want to pop up on a drug screen so it's reserved for home use. I might have to risk it tomorrow.

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