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Nurses off sick 16 days per year

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 12 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. Not everything that is old is bad. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured.

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might very well have changed in the 12 years since I wrote this post. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find pretty embarrassing today.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

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.

This 643rd post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Samantha


by Samantha

Comment posted at 10:41 on 2nd January 2009.

I’m a dedicated and newly qualified nurse, I’m very professional and hard-working and reliable. However, I am working in appalling and ridiculous working-conditions. It is soul-destroying to say the least. Despite my efforts and managerial skills I am unable to change the attitudes of fellow colleagues who have accepted these conditions as part of working in the NHS. We need a good manager to do this so we can implement positive change. I have a baby to look after at home so I cannot put my energy into it anymore. I have been ill with anxiety to the point that I cannot eat or I will be sick! I have made the decision to leave on the grounds that family come first but as a positive thinker I’m sure there’s another nursing post out there for me 🙂

I think it is very reasonable to think that there are health professionals taking time off due to stress despite being so dedicated. And I think it is very reasonable to think that the more dedicated you are, and the more you care the more stressed you become.

Another thing…when health care professionals take time off sick due to diarrhoea, a stool sample should be sent to microbiology (according to trust policy). So there should be statistics to show how many HCP’s take time of because of diarrhoea? – It would be interesting to see if this is the sole reason why nurses top the table for sick time off amongst public service workers?


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