I was attending in our general medical practice last week when one of our usually bright, cheerful, energetic residents dragged himself into the attending office looking as if he had lost his last friend. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “Oh nothing, I just have an upper respiratory infection. No fever or anything, I just feel terrible.” As highlighted by Jena et al, residents (and all clinicians) often work when they don't feel well because they do not want to cancel patient visits or to impose on another clinician to cover for them. We don't know how sick the residents in this survey were, but it probably doesn't matter much, since being afebrile is not a very specific test for lack of infectiveness. Working while sick may demonstrate an admirable sense of responsibility to patients and colleagues, but clinicians also need to worry about the real danger of infecting vulnerable patients as well as colleagues and staff.
Published Online: June 18, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.2063
Grady D. I Just Feel TerribleComment on “Why Physicians Work When Sick". Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(14):1108–1109. doi:10.1001/archinte.172.14.1108