Zac-Oct.11Argh. Recently, I came down with nasty bug that knocked me out for a few days. My throat was on fire, I couldn’t stop coughing, my nose was running like a river, I had a fever, and I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I had to call in sick to work.

The thing is, I hate calling in sick to work. It was the first time in nearly two years that I felt ill enough to call in sick. In the past, nearly all of my previous employers made me feel very uncomfortable about calling in sick. As if I was doing something wrong by calling in sick (and I’m not one to call in sick simply because I want to go to a football game, I only call in sick when I truly am physically ill).

I don’t think I’m alone on this one either. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about this issue, works for or has worked for an employer that discourages employees from calling in sick and taking sick time. This is a very “American” way to look at sickness. The U.S. remains the world’s only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave. Many countries all around the world provide generous sick time and encourage people to remain home when they are ill.

Luckily, we promote a culture of health at WVMC and that means we encourage taking care of yourself when you are sick and protecting hospital staff and patients by staying home. You trust in us to provide you safe medical care and we are committed to doing that ensuring our hospital employees can rest and recover when they are sick.

Hopefully your workplace promotes a culture that doesn’t penalize employees for calling in sick and encourages them to stay home and rest when they are ill. Managers should make it clear they don’t want sick people at work. That means sending people home if they come in obviously ill, not penalizing people for using sick days and setting the right example by staying home themselves when they’re sick.

If you are contagious, you certainly need to stay home. One of the easiest ways to tell if you are in the danger zone is if you have a fever. If you are getting body aches and chills, this can also indicate a fluctuating body temperature. You may also have a runny nose, coughing, and/or a sore throat; and depending on their severity, these are symptoms that may warrant a sick day.

The Washington Post reports that during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic “an estimated 7 million additional individuals were infected and 1,500 deaths occurred because contagious employees did not stay home from work to recover.” 1,500 deaths! 1,500 people died because a cadre of mucous troopers were unwilling or unable to stay home while infected with the flu.

How many of those individuals wanted to or knew they should stay home, but they had no choice but to work? When you are sick, you need to rest and recover. Don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself and protecting those around you.