I pride myself on a long history of illness-free attendance at work. The last time I remember missing a day to illness was over 10 years ago when I picked up something while bottle feeding calves. Naturally, our office, just like any other, has spent some time fretting over H1N1 and what we would do it if it spread through our staff. Between what you hear on the news and what you hear about someone nearby who has it, it's hard to imagine whether it would be a serious problem or just an annoyance to our daily routine.
The truth is, our staff systematically had what appeared to be a mild to serious cold recently. Between boldly bragging that I was untouched by whatever everyone had and scolding our staff for coughing directly onto work areas, I started to worry that I was tempting Karma. Sure enough, I made it through half a day on Halloween, spent the weekend in bed, and got the words I was dreading from the Doctor on Monday........"you've got the swine flu."
My first instinct was that I'd miss a day or so of work and get back to it - after all, if that is what the rest of our staff had, it shouldn't hurt too much. 48 hours later, and one return trip to the Doctor, and I got to add pneumonia to my list of problems. Over $400 worth of prescriptions (after insurance!), and I'm slowly feeling better....though my "day or so" of work is now almost two weeks.
The question is, did the rest of our staff have H1N1 also, and if so, why was I the only one hit hard? The answer - who knows....and who cares? If even one person out of the 15 on our staff has to go through this, it's enough reason to do a better job of controlling contamination. As I mentioned, I personally caught one staff member couging right onto our pharmacy counter, making no effort to cover her mouth in any way, and that was one of many instances, according to others.
We should do a better job of disinfecting doorhandles, telephones, counter surfaces, and other areas common to our staff and clients. We should take seriously public health recommendations such as coughing into a sleeve rather than into a hand, and we shouldn't ignore it when we see a co-worker fail to be safe.....their ignorance effects everyone.
I was lucky.....I'm salaried and have more vacation built up than I can use. The owner of our practice is more worried about my health than my return date, and our assistant manager has gone out of her way to communicate by phone, help me complete payroll remotely, and get the practice through a period of shifting schedules, hours changes, and general unrest. This may not be the case at all practices - in this economy, many staff would be crippled by missing two weeks of pay, many people can't afford $400 for medications, and many managers don't have people that can pick up their duties at a moment's notice.
While for some it may be No Big Deal........for me, it was very Real.
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