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Processes and People That are Under The Weather

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We’ve all been subject to falling ill at work at one point or another. When it happens, most often we head home for some rest and recuperation. Yet, there’s one occupation where more than half of its professionals stick it out and work while sick.

In one survey conducted at twelve medical facilities around the country, 58% of the 537 medical residents questioned said they had worked at least once while feeling sick. According to Dr. Thomas Nasca, the accreditation council’s CEO, “residents are trained to put patients’ needs above their own but also should recognize that if they’re sick, their patients’ would be better served by having another doctor take care of them.”

Despite Dr. Nasca’s explanation, 31% of the medical residents admitted to working sick more than once in 2009.  Of course there’s no major explanation as to why doctors choose to work sick, but the article offers some clues as to why it occurs as often as it does:

  • Misplaced dedication
  • Fear of letting other doctors down
  • Last minute shuffling of shift changes not worth the cost
  • Lack of time to see a doctor
  • Fear of being viewed as lazy

Obviously, there are several problems with this habit. First and foremost, sick doctors run the risk of spreading their illnesses to their patients, their staff, even their sterile surroundings. By contaminating their patients and work environment, they’re doing nothing more than feeding the viciously contagious cycle of sickness. That could be so dangerous to patients that this immediately seems grossly irresponsible. Secondly, whether or not doctors have minor symptoms, their ability to skillfully perform per usual will be compromised. Chances are, even the slightest headache or stomach pain will distract them enough to potentially make an unwise decision or a mistake. And though AccelaWork believes that failure is a great way to learn, when it comes to the well-being of patients, doctors have a very slight margin of error. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there is an enormous amount of fear that plagues many doctors. As can be interpreted from the reasons given above, they hold fear of inconveniencing others, being accused of slacking, losing money, and even potentially losing respect.

consultant sick at work

© Flickr user Leonid Mamchenkov

Interestingly enough, out of the half of dozen fears listed, not one of them deals with contaminating patients or neglecting themselves. And though there is no clear answer as to why that is, AccelaWork believes that the persisting problem isn’t necessarily a total reflection on the doctors.  Granted, they do have the freedom and ability to make their own decisions, but perhaps the environment and standards with which they’ve been exposed to during their residency make it difficult in deciphering a clear choice.  After all, for any new individual learning the ropes, its easy to make decisions based on actions that have been continually seen and considered normal.

Whether it be healthcare, business, not-for-profit, government, or enterprise, stakeholder satisfaction is a necessary component for workplace excellence. A happy, satisfied team is a successful one, so take the initiative to evaluate the workflow of those around you and lead by example. Don’t let fear stand in the way of people doing a good job, regardless of what the root of that fear is.

If it appears that a process in your office is “under the weather” it just might be a sign that its time to medicate with a new approach that not only changes, but improves the way you work. Give our our organizational productivity consultants a call today to learn more about how we can help improve productivity in your organization. We’d love to find a way to help!

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