Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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The Observer seems slightly shocked that nurses top the league table of public sector workers taking sick days off work, leaving wards understaffed. Rachel Downey, who calls herself a ‘nursing commentator’ (sounds a demanding job), says this is because they work so hard:
‘Their job is physically and emotionally demanding and becoming more so,’ she added. ‘The pressure on them has increased as demands have risen because of new targets and rising expectations from patients.’
As hard as nurses work (and they do work exceptionally hard), this isn’t the reason for the increased sickness abscence. It’s a simple answer to a simple question: Nurses are off a lot because of the extremely strict rules governing when they are allowed to come into work. Healthcare staff aren’t allowed anywhere near a hospital ward for forty-eight hours after having diarrhoea, for example. I’m sure public sector workers at the Inland Revenue don’t have to have two days off because they had a dodgy curry on their last night out, but for nurses it’s a necessity to ensure that they don’t spread illness amongst the patients.
Similarly, you might not mind a snivelling full-of-cold council worker on the end of the phone, but you’d be less than impressed if the nurse looking after you was coughing and sneezing into your open wounds.
So it’s hardly surprising that nurses end up taking more time off work than those in other public sector professions, and so these are hardly ‘shock’ figures as the Observer claims, and I’m quite disappointed that they’ve decided to question the dedication of the nursing staff of the NHS rather than putting their brains and researchers into gear first.