Most of us know firsthand the loss of productivity and impact that absenteeism has in the workplace.
What of presenteeism?
Most of us know firsthand the loss of productivity and impact that absenteeism has in the workplace. It is not a completely unknown or foreign concept. When we take time out of work for being sick we may actually feel guilty for being absent knowing the burden it will place on someone else who will have to do the work in our stead. We know this from experience. When one of our coworkers is out sick, we are the one onto which their responsibilities fall, the one who is asked to do their work until they return.
Alternatively, in considering whether or not to call in sick we may be filled with dread knowing once we are well, all our work will be piled up and waiting on us upon our return. We may also stop to consider the negative impact it may have on the people we serve—patients, clients or customers—who count on us to be there when they need us.
The high costs of absenteeism can be easily calculated, but few of us in healthcare have either heard of or considered the higher costs of presenteeism. Presenteeism, which is a largely unknown and foreign concept, is defined as working despite being physically sick, mentally ill, injured, or exhausted.
Impairment in the workplace is real but not always apparent. Signs will often be hidden, obscured or explained away until the latter stages of an addiction.
It was late, around midnight when the internist stumbled into the emergency department, the one I had spoken with less than an hour earlier concerning a patient who had to be admitted to the hospital. He sounded okay over the telephone, perhaps a little sleepy, something I felt was probably due to the late night call.
I was a third year family practice resident moonlighting in ED’s for extra income and for the experience. That night, for the first time in my practice career, I saw with crystal clarity the reality of impairment in the workplace involving a colleague.
He was stumbling, weaving and slurring his words. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot. He smelled of alcohol as he shuffled past me on his way to examine the patient I had called him to admit. More about him in a moment.
There was a second reality I discovered that evening, one of workplace complacency with such issues. I asked a nearby nurse if she had seen what I described. She chuckled and said, “Oh, he comes in like that all of the time.” Not only are there impaired individuals within any system, sometimes the systems are sick too.
Impairment in the workplace due to drugs or alcohol is not always as readily apparent, as it was with the internist. Signs will often be hidden, obscured or explained away until the latter stages of an addiction. Too often, people wait for overt signs of impairment or until there is a crisis which can no longer be ignored.
There are tale-tale signs which can indicate an impairment issue in the workplace, signs which should never be ignored or explained away without further scrutiny or inquiry. Familiarize yourself with these 23 common signs and symptoms of healthcare provider impairment.