‘‘You Have to Die Not to Come to Work”: A Mixed Methods Study of Attitudes and Behaviors regarding Presenteeism, Absenteeism and Influenza Vaccination among Healthcare Personnel with Respiratory Illness in Israel, 2016–2019.
Vaccine, 2021. [Online ahead of print]
Gur-Arie R, Katz MA, Hirsch A, Greenberg D, Malosh R, Newes-Adeyi g G, Davidovitch N, Rosenthal A.
Introduction: Healthcare personnel (HCP) have an increased risk of exposure to influenza and other respiratory pathogens. Increased presenteeism, decreased absenteeism, and low uptake of the influenza vaccine can contribute to the spread of influenza among HCP in healthcare settings. We used a mixed methods approach to investigate attitudes and behaviors of HCP in Israel towards influenza vaccination, presenteeism, and absenteeism.
Methods: The study took place over three influenza seasons (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019) at the largest hospital in southern Israel. We administered a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) questionnaire and conducted semi-structured interviews with HCP who had been recently ill with respiratory symptoms. The KAP questionnaire included closed-ended questions about attitudes and behaviors regarding influenza, working while sick, and influenza vaccination. The interviews investigated HCP’s perceptions of influenza infection and attitudes about absenteeism, presenteeism, and the influenza vaccine.
Results: We conducted 74 semi-structured interviews over three influenza seasons. Four HCP were interviewed twice, in separate seasons for different illness episodes. The 70 individuals interviewed included 16 physicians, 45 nurses or technicians, and 9 administrative staff. The median age was 42.5 years (range: 25-60), and most (79%) were female. Half (50%) got vaccinated against influenza before their illness episode. In interviews, most HCP said they come to work while sick (presenteeism) due to a strong personal work ethic and an institutional culture that discourages taking sick leave (absenteeism). HCP expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine as well as concern that the influenza vaccine causes severe illness.
Discussion: Over three influenza seasons in Israel, HCP cited a number of reasons for working while sick, and doubted the usefulness of influenza vaccine. Addressing reasons for presenteeism and vaccine hesitancy among HCP is crucial to protect HCP and patients from influenza virus infection and other viral respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19.