Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Share Joy, Not Germs

I am home sick today (Wednesday).  I also called off last Friday, when I had a fever, aches, headache and sore throat.  Over the weekend, I took it easy, and felt OK to go to work yesterday, despite some coughing.  Today I don't feel too bad, but I don't have much voice- I guess I used it up yesterday.  As each day wears on, I seem to have longer and longer coughing jags.  I think that is more what did in my voice, rather than talking.  
Staying home from work sick is a complex concept.   Friday I went out and did a bit of grocery shopping.  I kept myself away from any close contact with anyone, and I was not coughing yet, so I don't think I spread many germs.  At work, I am in fairly close contact with patients and other staff most of the time, so its not so easy to keep my germs to myself.   I do wash my hands frequently at work.  I also follow the current advice to cough or sneeze into the elbow of your sleeve, rather than your hand.  This spreads fewer germs than using your hand, but then whatever your sleeve comes in contact with gets a swipe of germs, and we can't wash our sleeves as readily as we wash our hands. 
As I may have mentioned in the past, over the past year our department has lost 1 1/2 full time positions, and is now down to 2- just over half what it was.  The workload has not been decreased significantly, we are left to use our best judgment what to cancel.  I am not one of those full time people.  I cover for the others when they are out.  One of them is out this week for deer hunting, so I am filling in for him.  So when I call off, there is no one to cover for me.  That leaves one person doing what used to be done by 3 1/2 people.  Do I go to work, and possibly share my germs with everyone there?  Or do I stay home to avoid spreading germs, but put my coworker in the position of having to figure out how best to juggle the day's workload by herself? 
I don't want her to burn out and quit, but on the other hand, is it fair for me to go to work, unintentionally sharing my germs with anyone I come in contact with, just to make her life easier?   Today was an easy decision, because I can't do my job without a voice.  What about tomorrow?  I will still be coughing, but not as much, and I will still be hoarse, but also not as much (I hope).  Where do I draw the line?  Doctors follow the Hippocratic Oath, which starts out: first, do no harm.  I think that is a good rule for anyone to follow.  I will make my decision based on how I can do the most amount of good, with the least amount of harm.  If I still can't talk, the answer is obvious.  If I  think I can do my job with a minimal amount of germ sharing, I will go to work.  If I am still coughing alot, it would probably do the least harm if I call off again. 
This is something to think about, not only in regards to work, but also any other activity where there are other people involved.  Shopping, church/synagogue/mosque/whatever, holiday/family gatherings...  If you are sick (the germy kind, not the chronic kind), it is not only your own health that is involved, but the health of everyone else.  If no one went out when they were sick, then no one would spread germs, and no one would get germs, and no one would be sick in the first place to have to stay home.  Since we don't live in that ideal world, we do have to concern ourselves about germs.  Make your decision based on what would do the most good with the least harm.  Share your joy, not your germs. 

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