Dr. Jessica Edwards touches on how doctors compromise their personal health to care for patients and patients compromise their own health to go to work and get paid. Dr. Jessica tells a story about a patient she sees who is having trouble getting to the clinic because he needs to go to work. The patient is very sick but can only go to the clinic once a month because they cannot lose a day at work.
As an intern, Dr. Jessica recalls never taking a sick day unless she was sent home because she would not have gotten paid. In one incidence a patient said "You're sick, you need to go home" which is ironic because she's the doctor treating the patient.
Dr. Jessica believes that if you're sick and you are more infectious than you are able to do your job, no one wins. Earned sick days provides a culture shift in that it's no longer, I have to wait to be sent home, now you can have a peace of mind knowning you can take the time to get well.
Dr. Shawen Ilana is a PGY2 in Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Dr. Ilana speaks a lot to the benefits earned sick days have on mental health. She says that doctors such as herself work hard for their patients to recognize warning signs of their illness whether it is physical or mental, but the patients cannot always do something about it because they cannot take time off from work. Earned sick days allow patients to take time off of work to get physical and mental health help, and she said that this is extremely important for mental health especially because there is such a stigma.
She has also seen addictions patients who participate in an intensive outpatient program and have trouble making meetings (3 days a week) because they cannot get time off from work. Dr. Ilana notes that more intensive programs are more effective compared to a less intensive one. Earned sick days can also be used as safe days. Dr. Ilana believes this gives the victim options. He or she could pick up and run away; however, that does not provide job security. Whereas safe days allow the victim to take time off to get safe without losing his or her job or exploiting the situation.
Dr. Ilana also touches on how patients who see the doctor more often are less likely to be hospitalized. She believes it is also fair to say that the stress of taking time off to care for yourself and potentially lose your job can severely impact ones health, and then if you add on that it could be because of mental health, it becomes a lot more personal of a situation.
Dr. Chirag Patel is a PTY4 in the Robert Wood Johnson cardiology department. Dr. Patel recounts a personal experience he had with an ambulance driver. The driver was consistently unable to make it to clinic appointments to address his blood pressure medication because he was unable to take time off from work. When the driver did finally show to take care of his medication, Dr. Patel had to escort him to the emergency room because he was at high stroke risk. Dr. Patel then had to talk to the employer for twenty minutes about why the driver could not work that day. What could have been a half day or even a full day off to take time for preventative care, turned into three days in the emergency room for the ambulance driver because he lacks earned sick days.
Dr. Patel has also had various encounters with caregivers of patients who are overwhelmed with the struggle between family and work. He says that doctors are handcuffed in what they can do; you can only write so many notes and take so many calls, but it’s seeing the physical person that makes all of the difference. Dr. Patel is a strong believer in taking time off to care for yourself because this not only prevents the spread of disease but it does also save money in the long run.
Dr. Marcus Sandling is member of CIR-SEIU and is a practicing physician at University Hospital. Dr. Marcus believes that it is important for people to be able to take time off of work to care not only for themselves but also for a sick family member. He has experienced that patients often miss appointments or are unable to make follow-up visits because of challenges they have in getting time off from work. Dr. Marcus is a strong believer in an earned sick days policy not just for Newark, but for the state and the country as a whole.
Dr. Yousaf is a third year internal medicine and pediatric resident in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Yousaf is vice president of the New Jersey region of CIR-SEIU. Dr. Yousaf tells a story about an 11 year old patient who had bone cancer. The little girl's mother could not sit with her through chemotherapy because she had to go to work for fear she would be fired. Dr. Yousaf believes that paid sick days is a necessity and should be implemented wherever possible.
Dr. Jennifer is a resident at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and active member of the New Jersey region of CIR-SEIU. Dr. Jennifer has experienced various patients who would like to get medical attention but cannot because they fear that taking off of work will lead to job loss. Dr. Jennifer tells a story of a bipolar woman who lost her daughter because of her disorder, and how she needed to follow up with a psychiatrist but could not because she did not have earned sick days and was afraid of losing her job. Dr. Jennifer also speaks of children patients who go to school or daycare ill because their parents cannot afford to take time off of work, leading to the spread of disease.