work makes me sick, literally :OP

Nurses General Nursing


we are exposed to the sickest people in our world just as an expected part of the job... despite aseptic techniques, contact isolation and isolation when we know we need it, and our best efforts to wash, wash and wash again.... there is still extreme risk of exposure and contraction of disease in our work environment.


i know i brought home a stomach virus last year! it seems that everyone of our possible flu's came in with typical viral fever, n/v, and just needed 24 hrs to recover! (please doc send them home like the rest of us!!!) i had about 10 shifts with multiple patients like this, but the one i think gave it to me was the one i couldn't get to wake up. she was just being sleepy on last rounds in the morning and i needed to get some blood. i nudged her as i spoke her name.... she finaly woke and breathed thick morning breath right into my face... i was talking and got a mouth full..... gag. :angryfire

thankfully i took care of myself, and isolated a bathroom for only my use and didn't give it to anyone else in my house... i was so proud of myself for that... but was i ever sick!!! there should be compensation for us when we get that kind of job related injury don't you think?

so i want to ask:

are you sick right now? and can you share what your going through?

have you been sick b/c of work and want to share some advice?

(you could get an annonomous log in name if you need to)


145 Posts

We're exposed to a lot and also our increased stress levels put us at greater risk. I was told by my boss that I would probably get everything going the first year. I got a bad cold back in October and got a NASTY case of the flu in January. I was so sick and weak I couldn't get out of bed and slept for 12 hours at a time.

Tweety, BSN, RN

33,525 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

We had a nurse who cut himself cleaning up a MRSA wound and got a horrible MRSA infection. Also had a nurse who was on antibiodics for a UTI, wiped out her intestinal flora, and got c-diff (couldn't prove it was hospital acquired though and was a per diem worker and didn't have sick time to cover her missed days).

Fortunately, I haven't been sick from a hospital acquired illness. Most of the illnesses our unit has MRSA, c-diff and the like aren't likely to affect us healthy people, we're more likely though to infect other sick patients.

I think we do things to boost our immune system like eat right, exercise, and sleep, etc. that's our best defense other than frequent handwashing.

Of course, one never knows when a SARS-like illness will spread. Can be a bit scarey.


4,516 Posts

:o Nurses are like kids just starting school or daycare...come down with everything intitially, before we build up an immunity. THEN as we get older, our immune systems get strained and if we're not careful we risk illness. I have soooo many older nurses who have acquired infections and been surprised. Including MRSA that went systemic and almost killed one friend of mine. Nurses with pneumonia are increasing in my circle anyway.... CAP is really acquired on the job for us I suspect...of course employee health doesn't see it that way, do they?

So the moral is be respectful of these bugs, stay healthy and strong, take your vitamins, eat well and protect yourself as much as you can, nurses. The scariest thing to me is there are always those unexpected situations you can't prepare for. And if your patient has something you just are SOL.

Still worrying about a full face explosion of vent tubing mist on a Hep C patient here and hoping for the best. :o

i have had sooooo many skin tests but never possitive... but it always worries me b/c it is something we could be exposed to and not even know it... and be infected with and not know it, worse still!!!


148 Posts

Specializes in LTC, MDS/careplans, Unit Manager.

i was taking vitals on a patient i was transferring to er for suspected pneumonia. i was squatted down taking her bp when she decided to cough. unfortunately, we were face to face, as she was sitting in a wheelchair. i have had many, many bouts of bronchitis since childhood, but this was the first time i developed pneumonia.


90 Posts

I have gotten sick several times, but our hospital actually handles it in a manner that is the opposite of compensation. Even if we have a DOCTORS NOTE, we get "written up" for calling in sick. If we have to call out sick more than 3 times in a rolling YEAR, we get a disciplinary letter that goes into our file. If we get more, it could ultimately end up in our termination. Again, this includes being sick with a doctors note. The only times I have been sick I believe are a direct result of working with sick patients. And yet I have to come to work and spread all my germs and possibly put my patients' and coworkers' health at risk.


437 Posts

I agree that not only do we have an increased exposure level to who know what germs are floating around here -- I think the additional factors of high stress, low staffing (more stress), sicker patients (more stress), family stresses (more stress) -- complicate things -- doesn't do much to boost the immune system!

We just have to practice the best preventative measures that we can (universal precautions etc.) and pray alot!! The post that mentioned rest and good diet -- that is what was CAN control to take care of us!

I think that the "Call in" policies that some places have adopted -- tick me off!! We are all human and are going to have days when we are truly ill! On those days, it seems counter-productive and downright stupid to expect someone who is running a fever, coughing... whatever... to work anyway!! Health care! Gotta love it!:rolleyes:


435 Posts

Just to add a word or two about the call in policies...I think it can be a hazard to your liscense coming into work when you're sick enough to stay home. Or worse, a danger to your patient(s). I know that when I am sick, I don't think as clearly as I do when well. I could overlook something that I normally wouldn't.

I haven't really caught too many colds, but it could be that I became a nurse after having kids and they'd already exposed me to so much, lol. I do have some allergy trouble that comes on while at work. I swear it's some mold in our vents.

Of course you can't help it if someone coughs/sneezes in your face. But you can cut down your risks by remembering strict handwashing and TRY to avoid getting face to face with patients as much as possible.

a month or so ago i walked into a confused pt's room to answer a ringing IV pump to find her pumping blood into her bed from her extracted central line site. she had pulled it out leaving it hanging on by it's suture and had lost quite a bit of blood so it was everywhere. of course i grabbed up her sheet and put pressure on the wound and called out for help. i was in the thick of it and without gloves!!!

we secured the wound after getting gauze and holding pressure, removed the suture and placed a pressure dressing... of course we all wore gloves except when i first came in and took action... no time for gloves when your pt is in danger!

so i washed and washed and it seems that i had no exposure my body couldn't handle.... but it is still so appearant to me that our job requires us to accept the high risk of exposure as routine and we are not compensated when our job does make us sick.

so if we get TB or AIDS or Hep C will we loose our jobs?


127 Posts

taken from the ana code of ethics for nurses

"the nurse owes the same duty to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence and to continue personal and professional growth."

this should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone who tries to implement a punitive sick call policy. many nurse managers would do well to keep this in mind also (some already do, but most could care less in my experience)

how about what our job does to our hands! the cracking and stinging with each wash and the need for that instant soap when we are in a hurry or in a bad way... never enough lotion to mend them on the run either... i am always glad when i get my couple days off, just to heal up the cuticles forget the manicured look!

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