Hospitals

Survey: Sick doctors go into work knowing they’re ill, potentially putting patients at risk

Survey results reported that the majority of respondents, 83.1 percent, said they worked when they were sick at least once in the past year

Most times people get sick during the work week, they’ll call in and take the day off to recover. Sometimes though, if you’re not too sick, you’ll still choose to go into work and get stuff done. This is perfectly normal for those who work at a desk, over the phone or in a typical office, but when doctors and other healthcare professionals come to work sick and interact with patients, it’s a different story.

Many doctors, nurses, midwives and physicians assistants come to work sick, even though they know it puts patients at risk, a new survey suggests.

The survey, published in JAMA Pediatrics and analyzed by Julia E. Szymczak and her colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, contains 536 responses from doctors and advanced practice clinicians showing that the majority of the respondents still came to work even after realizing they had symptoms of some illness, such as diarrhea and fever.

So why do these medical experts come in with the possibility of infecting their own patients? The survey results suggest that a lot of them are afraid to let their colleagues or patients down by not coming into work. On top of that, these medical professionals explained that they were concerned about finding someone to handle their work in case of an absence.

Survey results reported that the majority of respondents, 83.1 percent, said they worked when they were sick at least once in the past year, and 9.3 percent said they worked when they were sick at least five times.

Dr. Jeffrey R. Starke of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Reuters Health, “Most of us have policies restricting visitation by visitors who are ill, we screen them for signs or symptoms. Yet we don’t do the same thing for ourselves.”

Starke added that on top of having the ability to infect others, sick doctors don’t perform at the same high level that healthy doctors do, posing an even greater risk for patients who need the best care possible.

Doctors are the ones who tell us to stay home from work when we’re sick to rest our bodies and get healthier faster, so maybe they should be taking some of their own advice for the greater good of everyone.

Photo: Flickr user Eric