* * Anonymous Doc: Not Sneezing Yet

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Not Sneezing Yet

My interns have colds.

My attending seems to have the flu.

And most of my patients have something I'm sure I could catch.

This might be what I hate most about this job. I hate being sick. Ever since a stomach virus over the summer, I've been absolutely hyper-vigilant about washing my hands, using hand sanitizer, often enough to make the people around me just slightly uncomfortable. I use alcohol wipes to wipe down my cell phone whenever I touch it after I've touched anything else, or whenever it ends up on a hospital surface. The other day I found myself putting on a glove to eat a banana. This is not normal behavior. But to whatever extent I can prevent myself from catching something, I can't resist.

And it's honestly not the patients, mostly. I mean, the things I'm most worried about catching from patients are things I should be worried about-- bedbugs, scabies, things that are harder to shake, and far more (property-)damaging, than a cold. It's the other doctors.

It continues to make no sense to me why we don't get sick days. I understand the hospital needs to be staffed, but when you're forced to make up any shifts to have to miss because of illness-- when you don't even get one day a year you can call in sick without penalty-- then people are going to come to work able to infect. And it's one thing for them to infect their colleagues-- I don't want to catch someone's cold but I understand it's a risk of the job and it's not going to damage me too much beyond some crappy-feeling days-- but it's another thing to put the patients at risk. And, just about every day, there's someone coming in to see a patient with some sort of cold, something the patient can catch.

Just another reason you don't want to be in a hospital unless you really must.

Now excuse me while I use an alcohol wipe on the outside of the pack of tissues I just touched.


  1. What happens if you are sick for, lets say, a cumulative month through out the year? What then? Do you work for the following 365 + 30 days consecutively? Is it possible to just take sick days in your third year, and get away with not making them up?

  2. I learned the importance of hand washing when I got strep throat Twice during my peds rotation in med school. The absolute BEST time is when you have a head cold and you have to operate/do some procedure with a mask on, and you can't blow your nose for a couple of hours.

  3. Here in Germany we have work laws AND a strong doctors' union. You bet that we DO get sick days off.

  4. hi, absolute BEST time is when you have a head cold and you have to operate/do some procedure with a mask.