How would you feel if you had chest pains or a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away, and when you finally got in to see a doctor, she was coughing and sneezing throughout the entire examination?
I, for one, would not particularly appreciate such dedication to patient care. But ironically, doctors have a tendency to show up to work when they should be taking sick days. There’s even a name for this – presenteeism.
To find out how prevalent presenteeism is among doctors in residency training programs, a group of researchers sent surveys to 774 residents in internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics at 12 hospitals around the country. Among the 72% who returned their surveys, 58% of them admitted that they had reported for work while sick at least once in the previous year. That included 31% who said they did it more than once.
Men and women were equally likely to commit presenteeism, as were residents in every part of the country and in all four specialties surveyed. At one of the hospitals, every single resident acknowledged coming to work while sick. For the other 11 hospitals, the range was 51% to 72%.
Part of the problem may have been that residents simply didn’t have time to be patients – 53% said there weren’t enough hours in the day for them to see a physician. They may also have come to work because they didn’t want to look weak, dump extra work on their already overwhelmed colleagues, or because they felt that no one else could handle their particular responsibilities.
Whatever the reason, it’s obviously not good for doctors – of all people – to show up to work sick. “Ill health care workers can endanger patients and colleagues due to decline in performance or spread of disease,” the researchers write in Wednesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. “Given the potential risks to patients related to illness and errors, resident presenteeism should be discouraged.”
No argument here!
-- Karen Kaplan/Los Angeles Times