Health Care Workers Work While Sick

Doctors and nurses go to work sick too often, endangering the very patients they are trying to help.

A survey published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that, although 95.3% of the physicians and clinicians surveyed believe working while sick puts the patient at risk, 83.1% admitted to working while sick at least once within the past year. Many work while sick to not let their colleagues down or leave them short-staffed or inhibit continuity of care. Others fear disappointing patients or ostracism by colleagues.

But this practice needs to change, for it undermines the goal of the health care system. As an accompanying editorial in JAMA Pediatrics observed, “[c]reating a safer and more equitable system of sick leave for [health care workers] requires a culture change in many institutions to decrease the stigma—internal and external—associated with [health care workers] illness.”

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