Many health care professionals work when they are sick, putting
their patients at risk for serious illness or even death, new research
The danger is greatest for patients with weakened immune
systems, and the study authors noted that these practices also increase health
Since the consequences of these types of infections can be
significant, the researchers wanted to know why health care professionals
didn't stay home when they were ill.
So, they surveyed doctors, nurse practitioners, physician
assistants, nurse anesthetists and midwives. A team of researchers, led by
Julia Szymczak of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, received anonymous
responses from more than 500 health care professionals.
The vast majority of those surveyed (95 percent) believed that
working while sick put their patients at risk. Still, 83 percent admitted to
working while sick at least once in the past year and 9 percent said they
worked while sick at least five times. They said they worked with symptoms like
diarrhea, fever and significant respiratory issues; the study published online July 6 in
the journal JAMA Pediatrics showed.
And why do they work when sick?
- Almost 99 percent didn't want to let their colleagues down,
- Almost 95 percent had concerns about staffing,
- 92.5 percent didn't want to disappoint their patients,
- 64 percent were worried about being ostracized by their
- Almost 64 percent were concerned about continuity of care.
"The study illustrates the complex social and logistic
factors that cause this behavior," the researchers said in a journal news
Lowering the stigma that can come with sick leave "must
factor in workplace demands and variability in patient census [count] and
emphasize flexibility," Dr. Jeffrey Starke, of Baylor College of Medicine
in Houston, and Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, from the University of Missouri-Kansas
City School of Medicine, wrote in a related editorial. "Also essential is
clarity from occupational health and infection control departments to identify
what constitutes being too sick to work."
Source: Healthy News