|Just took job as Surgical Tech
Aug 6, 2012
Recently accepted employment as surgical tech. On the employee occupational health questionare it asked if I had any of the following diseases. HIV/Aids was one of them. I became very nervous because it said my supervisor and manager would be notified of any answers that were checked. I haven't even met my supervisor or mangager yet because I am so new. I took off an entire year to try to retrain myself and get out of the medical field. However, I became trapped in poverty very quickly as my family will not help me. My retraining was in another field that turned out not to pay well (commission type sales work) If I do not work as a surgical tech then I virtually become homeless and starve. I feel pressured so I lied on my employee occupational questionare. I can not jeapordize my livilyhood by disclosing my status. I did it once before and had disasterous results. I'm aware of hospital policy and procedure but I also know I follow universal precautions. The stress of this disease and the stigma is more than one can bare. Even my indigent care HIV specialist encouraged me to get back to work in the operating room because my situation of being homeless and hungry was so severe. But ofcourse I feel bad for not disclosing. I'm worried because the hospital states that if it finds out that you have any of the above diseases that you will be terminated if answering the employment questionare incorrectly. What advice do you give to Nurses/Surgical Techs that have to go through this?
Response from Mr. Chambers
First, it is correct that answering falsely on the questionnaire is grounds for termination by itself.
However, you shouldn't be prohibited from doing your work because of your condition. I don't know what state you live in, but most states address this type of issue in their labor laws or there have been court cases setting precedents.
Doing a quick browser search for "HIV Positive Surgical Tech" showed a wide variety of opinions and answers. There's even a federal appeals court saying it is not discrimination to refuse to allow an HIV+ surgical tech work in the OR. There are others that say with proper precautions, such as double gloves, etc. there is no increased exposure for patients.
I strongly encourage you to contact a legal services organization that serves people with HIV in your state. They should know the local laws and be able to assist if you have problems. However, lying on the health questionnaire alone gives them the right to terminate you.
Good luck, Jacques
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