Why do doctors work when sick?

A recent survey of trainee doctors in the US found that more than half of them admitted to going to work with flu-like symptoms, mostly out of a sense of obligation to their colleagues and patients.

Overall 51% reported working when sick at least once in the past year and 16% reported working when sick at least three times during that period, the study found.

The researchers writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine said the doctors appeared to work because they felt “pressured to provide care when sick”  - despite knowing that they risked infecting patients.

The findings generated debate on the Australian Doctor website, with many agreeing that they often worked when ill out of as sense of duty, with some adding that heavy workload and lack of cover meant they had little choice.

One GP wrote: “If you are in private practice the pressure is even more, that mortgage ain't going to pay itself. The cost of time off is huge when you still have to pay your staff and leases. I haven't taken a day off sick since 1993.”

“During my internship a couple of years ago, on the first day of orientation we were told to present unless we were basically at death's door as there was no ability for the hospital to provide cover,” another commentator wrote.

“To be honest, I think the harm caused by the doctor not attending to see patients is likely greater than the risk of infecting patients with a simple URTI, provided that necessary precautions are taken,” he added.

Australian Doctor would like to know what you think. Why do doctors work when sick?