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