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Nurses off sick 16 days per year

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

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 post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Samantha


    10.41, 02/01/2009

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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