Majority of doctors, advanced clinicians have worked while ill

By Laura Mize • Published: October 27th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Many people work while they’re sick, including health care providers.

A newly published study reveals that 83 percent of providers surveyed said they had worked while ill in the past year. Study participants included doctors and advanced practice clinicians, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others.

The high number of providers who apparently work while sick is problematic.

No one likes to work around an ill coworker, or see the bag boy at the market sniffling while he loads up the cart. But there’s even more cause for concern when a health care provider comes to work under the weather.

The most obvious risk is that of infecting a patient. Patients with a weakened immune system have the most risk of catching an illness from a less-than-healthy doctor. For them, coming down with a cold could mean the difference between life and death.

There’s also the chance coworkers will get sick … increasing the risk to patients. In addition, ailing providers run the risk of making patient care errors while being distracted by their own conditions.

The study also showed that the illnesses health care providers worked through are no joke. Respiratory problems, fevers and diarrhea are some of the problems respondents said they had suffered through even while working.

Most providers said they believed the practice puts patients at risk.

So why do they choose to work ill? Their reasons are just what one might expect … not wanting to let down coworkers, concern there were not enough providers for them to take time off and not wanting to be shunned by coworkers.

The survey highlights a need for reducing the stigma about calling in sick. Taking a sick day when they need it will certainly help health care providers and benefit their coworkers and patients, too.