NURSES AND SICKNESS PRESENTEEISM

Which nurse hasn’t turned up to work feeling “under the weather”?

It is considered usual practice that nurses soldier on no matter the consequences.

Nurses know the consequences to themselves and to their patients from this behaviour.

Yet they continue to do it.

A report in the journal “Work & Stress” found that employees that turned up to work unwell had a perception that their employer had a reduced level of commitment to the employee.

“Sickness presenteeism” is the term used when individuals attend work while ill.

The decision by the individuals to attend work while ill is not just a consequence of the medical condition.

It is also associated with work and personal demands.

Personal demands include financial needs as well as a strong work ethic or job commitment.

One trait that is also crucial is boundarylessness.

Boundarylessness is where the individual is unable to say no to the expectations and requests of others.

The nature of nursing leads to behaviours that make it hard to say no to those we care for.

But it does have a detrimental effect upon ourselves when we ourselves are ill.

High work load, work time pressures, staffing levels, insecure job status and a perception that we are irreplaceable are all factors that determine if we attend work ill.

If an employee turns up to work ill for 6 or more days, that individual was found to have a belief that their employer organisation does not have a commitment to them.

These individuals have a reduced buffer when organisational change or job insecurity occurs, which means their health and well being is easily affected.

Individuals who turn up to work prematurely and not fully recovered are actually hindering their own health recovery and that of others.

The study authors say that

“Employees may perceive that the organisation is failing them, and is therefore less committed towards staff. In turn, we suggest this may lead to those who feel unable to take sick leave to feel negatively and resentful towards the organisation (which may ultimately reduce their commitment to the organisation).”

To learn more about sickness presenteeism, 

Alison M. Collins, Susan Cartwright & Sean Cowlishaw (2017) Sickness presenteeism and sickness absence over time: A UK employee perspective,Work & Stress, 32:1, 68-83

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