A new study has found that many doctors, nurses, midwives and physicians assistants come to work sick even though they know it puts patients at risk.
It further revealed that many said they don’t call in sick because they don’t want to let colleagues or patients down by taking a sick day, and they were concerned about finding staff to cover their absence.
Survey responses from 536 doctors and advanced practice clinicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was analysed by Julia E. Szymczak and colleagues.
It was found that over 95% believed that working while sick puts patients at risk, but 83% still said they had come to work with symptoms like diarrhea, fever and respiratory complaints during the previous year.
About 9% had worked while sick at least five times over the previous year, and doctors were more likely than nurses or physicians assistants to work while sick.
Analyzing their comments, the researchers found that many report extreme difficulty finding coverage when they’re sick, and there is a strong cultural norm to come in to work unless extraordinarily ill.
The findings were reported in JAMA Pediatrics.
Study co-author Dr. Jeffrey R. Starke of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said sick health care workers present a real risk for patients, especially ones who are immunocompromised, like cancer patients or transplant patients.
He added that most hospitals do not have a specific policy restricting ill healthcare workers, and developing and enforcing these policies may help address the issue.
Starke further pointed out that side from spreading illness in the hospital, sick doctors likely perform worse on the job than healthy ones.