Many Doctors Come to Work Sick

CHICAGO, Sept. 17 (UPI) — Most U.S. doctors — especially those in training — have come to work sick at least once, putting patients and coworkers at risk, U.S. researchers report.

A survey of residents — doctors with medical school degrees completing on-the-job training in hospitals — indicates 60 percent come to work sick at least once. The research letter, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says one-third of the residents report coming in sick more than once.

“Hospitals need to build systems and create a workplace culture that enables all caregivers, not just residents, to feel comfortable calling in sick,” lead author Dr. Vineet Arora of the University of Chicago says in a statement. “Their colleagues and their patients will thank them.”

Working while not fully functioning because of sickness — a phenomenon known as presenteeism — is estimated to cut U.S. productivity by one-third, Arora and colleagues point out.

The presentee — a term coined by Mark Twain in 1892 — exposes others to a less than optimal job performance and often, to a communicable disease.

“The H1N1 pandemic made us think more about this,” study co-author Dr. Anupam Jena of Massachusetts General Hospital says. “We noticed that if residents called in sick, people questioned their motives; and if they came in sick, people questioned their judgment. The real issue is what is best for patient care.”

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