Published Jul 31, 2003
Hello! I am new to the website but am finding it extremely informative. I am a junior working towards my BSN at Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, CA. I have a few semesters to decide what field I would like to pursue but my heart's always been with the NICU. Just reading your threads has been encouraging.
Anyway, I have a question that has been on my mind a lot. I have three young children myself (ages 7, 4 and 3) and I know it's difficult to keep them healthy. What precautions do nurses in the NICU take to prevent bringing "yuckies" into the NICU? When do you call in sick? Does the hospital issue your scrubs...I know that a nurse needs to be extremely careful with any population but especially the premies. Does handwaching take care of it all??? LOL
NicuGal, MSN, RN
First, all hospitals sick policies are different. Basically, unless you have something like RSV or Roto, you go to work, at least in my hospital you do. We wear masks if we have colds. Handwashing is a big infection control. We don't wear scrubs, we wear white pants with whatever top or jacket...but again, this varies hospital to hospital. I took FMLA when my daughter had Rotovirus...we can't work if our kids have that.
Actually...I pick up more bugs at work than from my daughter LOL
I don't come in sick at all, but it isn't a big issue because I hardly ever get sick. If I were a mother I would probably freak out if the nurse looking after my sick baby had to wear a mask. Not rational, I know, but how many parents of sick children remain completely rational?:)
NICU_Nurse, BSN, RN
Knock on wood, I only called in sick one day in almost two years, so I've been lucky. I'm going to ditto much of what's been said so far: We wear masks if we've got colds or cough or runny noses, we have the option of gowning if we feel that we are especially "infective" but this is a personal decision that is often left up to interpretation. RSV and Rotovirus are a call-in, though I've suspected sometimes people come to work anyway (our sick policy is one that is "granted but not encouraged", another reason I am leaving! They grant you sick time but suggest that you not use it, and you do get penalized for using more than a few days a year, despite legitimate illness or infection). We wear our own scrubs from home. If I even suspect that I am getting ill in any way, I am a handwashing fiend (not that I don't do that already- I am just especially careful to wash much longer, more thoroughly, up to the elbow, use Purell or other gel, etc.).
As for what Fergus mentioned, I agree! I have felt just awful explaining to the parents why I am wearing a mask; they look at you suspiciously (which I can't blame!) and make me feel like slinking off into a corner to die in shame.
My husband has been sick much more than I have these last two years or so, and I am positive it's because I'm developing resistance to all of the bugs we come into contact with, and bringing them home all over me, then shedding them on him! I leave my shoes and dirty uniforms by the door- I'm in my skivvies as soon as I walk in, and leave them in a discreet laundry basket rather than carry them into the bedroom or bathroom accidentally tracking bugs all over the house. Hubby doesn't mind that- every time he sees me I'm in my underwear. He says it's a nice way to be greeted in the morning.
We have gotten into the habit of telling the parents why we are at work...and we ask them to complain to see if we can get the sick policy changed. Why be ashamed, it isn't your fault that the hospital doesn't think nurses should get sick. Plus, I have to save my sick time for when my daughter is home sick.
I do pedi home health for medically fragile kids. Recently, one of the other nurses came to work sick. The baby I take care of cought her cold, which turned into a 6 week illness for this kid and 2 weeks in the hospital with pneumonia. The Mom of this baby requested that the "sick nurse" never be sent again, since she "cared more about her paycheck than giving my baby pneumonia". The moral of the story is, when in doubt, call in sick.
Which is an easier moral to follow if you aren't risking losing your job for calling out. Not as simple as worrying about your paycheck, it's worrying
about your career, your evaluations, not to mention being able to care for your own family (don't know about you, but my paycheck doesn't go for bon-bons and vacations!) The issue at
hand here is not 'that sick nurse', it's the SYSTEM that promotes 'that sick nurse' going to work when she is not well. If that changed, I doubt you'd have many problems.
Whatever it is - call in for sick leave when you are not well. Don't be a hero it's not worth. I'm sure you wouldn't want to be blamed and accused for life when a baby that you are nursing caught your bug and become very sick.
Once we had a father who came to visit his baby without fail everyday despite being unwell and against our advise. He'll come in with a mask daily. Eventually the babies got sick and came down with influenza which caused the unit to be isolated. One of the babies got so sick and never made it of course not for that reason alone cos the baby also developed other complication that worsen her condition. The blame and accusation from the babies' parents and grandparents are still fresh in my mind.
BittyBabyGrower, MSN, RN
I agree...easier said than done. It always amazes me that as a health care professional, we are punished for being ill. Makes no sense.
Since we accumulate points, we have to use our sick time wisely. Unless you are dying, you go to work. Can't call in for sniffles.
dawngloves, BSN, RN
I am an adult. I know when I am too sick to come to work.And I know my co workers don't want me infecting them as much as the parents don't want me infecting their baby. Plus, Infectious Disease isn't too crazy about the idea of a sick care giver on the unit either. If I have the sick time, no one can tell me I can't call out sick.
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