advertise with us find a job post your topic join the community log in
Rookie Wit & Wisdom
Sick and Toughing It Out: Am I Patient Zero?

It started with the aches. I thought, what did I do to my back? Did I pull it or something? Quickly I discovered I had a low grade fever, adequately controlled by Tylenol.

Next day, same thing, not nearly as well controlled. I thought I had some kind of weird vague virus that would pass.

Three days later I sit here in my bed after having to leave work early because my fever spiked, and I began having severe flu symptoms. Looking back, I probably should've called off yesterday, and now I feel TERRIBLE because I'm the one who's "patient zero," potentially exposing my patients and coworkers to what appears to be the flu.

My coworkers, genuinely concerned for my health, were slightly upset that I had to leave early, and gave a look that said, "Who did this poor girl give it to?"

So I ask on behalf of the new nurses, when is it okay to tough out the little stuff and when do you need to call off?

I feel like I've been surrounded by an attitude of "Don't call in sick unless you're actually dying," but it really doesn't seem appropriate. Even sometimes the little stuff can have a big impact on your patients.

Read more Rookie Wit & Wisdom articles

3 Responses to “Sick and Toughing It Out: Am I Patient Zero?”

  1. Marla Says:

    I am the DON in a LTC environment, and I would prefer if my nurses didn’t come to work if they are running a fever, are throwing up or have diarrhea. If you can’t think straight, you cannot do a good job, and are potentially infecting the residents. Stay home and get better. I know not every manager has that opinion, but I start with fever. If you have a fever, you have something cooking that probably shouldn’t be on my floor. Some places require you to see an MD before coming back, and if you have a temp, it might be a good idea. It’s when it’s often and repeatedly that it becomes a problem. Take good care of yourself as a general rule and stay home when you have a temp.

  2. Jenn Says:

    I am an infection control nurse epidemiologist at a large medical center and can tell you without a doubt, if you have to ask yourself “should I be going to work?”, you SHOULD NOT be going to work! Since we know how bad it is to expose our patients to infection in the hospital, I won’t even address that. Having also worked as an assistant manager, I can also address this from a workforce standpoint. Not only are you exposing your patients, but you are exposing their visitors, and also all of your co-workers. By staying home you will lessen the blow to your unit’s workforce in the long run, as coming in and spreading your illness to the other nurses, physicians, etc. on your unit just causes more call-ins. If you experience an issue with a manager who does not seem to understand why you shouldn’t be coming in, maybe it is time for an in-service on your unit about illness transmission.

  3. Eileen Says:

    It never gets easier to know when to call in. I have been in nursing 30 years and still question myself unless I just cannot get off the bed or couch and know I would be doing my patients more of an injustice by being there.
    I think we always give a confusing view of “call ins” to new nurses. We are told ” don’t come in if you feel you are contagious—BUT—when you do call in (or Off) depending on your wording—you get the third degree.
    When you come back to work you get to hear about how short staffed they were without you,how very busy they were,etc…. so you feel guilty.
    In regards to what the infection control nurse wrote—-maybe there should be more inservices and notices to make everyone understand that it is not a bad thing to call in—-and just maybe our workplaces should offer a few more than 5 sick days so we don’t have to weigh paying bills with staying home to heal if we have a bad year and are sick more than once or twice!

Leave a Reply

search realityrn

sign up for weekly cartoons, tips, and blog posts
first name
last name

Register to win a pair of RX Medical Silver Fox Crocs

Nursing Jobs