Don’t Go to Work if You’re Symptomatic!

Written by Rose Torrento on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 Posted in On the Job

temp check

Any healthcare professional will tell you that it’s often easy to neglect your own health as you prioritize the needs of patients and colleagues. You work back-to-back shifts without batting an eyelash, or shoulder extra work when something urgent arises. It’s easy to overlook the fact that you haven’t had a full night’s sleep or that you’ve developed a fever when you’re so busy caring for others.

Now, during COVID-19, it’s important to break this habit and start paying close attention to your own health. Catching symptoms before you bring the virus to work not only benefits your health, it’s critical for protecting your patients, coworkers, and other hospital staff.

Studies put emphasis on prevention

A recent study by Massachusetts General Hospital casts light on how dangerous coronavirus is for healthcare workers. According to the study, “frontline health care workers had a nearly 12-times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 compared with individuals in the general community.” On the surface, this underscores the continued need for proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization protocols. Looking deeper, it’s all the more reason for nurses to tune into their own health and wellness.

The harsh reality is, even with the availability of PPE and forethought to hygienic practices, healthcare workers face an exponentially higher risk of exposure due to their line of work. Nurses can downplay this risk by identifying their own symptoms and staying home from work if they’re showing signs of the virus.

nasal swab

Working a shift with symptoms creates unnecessary risk

Nurses reporting for duty with COVID-19 and delivering patient care to those in an immunocompromised state creates a dangerous situation. To understand just how dangerous, we need only to look at the numerous reports from around the country of infections spreading rampant through nursing homes, introduced by an unwitting caregiver or family member.

The role of a caregiver is all encompassing — which means caring for yourself, as well. Nurses can’t expect to be effective caregivers to their patients if they’re unable to guarantee their own good health! It’s yet another reason to pay attention to your own health before and after every shift. If you’re running a fever, have body aches, have trouble breathing, or any other symptoms attributed to coronavirus, take evasive action to focus on your own health first.

Assess your own health regularly

Start each day by checking your own health against the CDC’s COVID-19 self-checker. Take note of any of the following and record them:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Headache or body aches
  • Loss of taste or smell

Report symptoms immediately to your shift supervisor and discuss next steps. Most hospitals and healthcare facilities will mandate a COVID-19 test and quarantine until the results come back. In the event of a negative test result, you may be asked to test again to confirm. Positive test results usually mean quarantining for 10-14 days, which involves a different conversation with your shift manager.

For travel nurses, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis may affect your contract and should be immediately reported to your recruiter, who can help you assess next steps. Above all, remember that a positive diagnosis isn’t a poor reflection on you. On the contrary — taking the right steps to protect yourself and others is the best thing you can do as a caregiver.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, healthcare workers remain on the front lines. It’s important for every medical professional to be mindful of their risk of exposure and to take steps to protect their health. Health Providers Choice cares about the safety and wellbeing of our travel nurses and can help you navigate next steps if you test positive for COVID-19. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.