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Research Letter
September 15, 2010

Presenteeism Among Resident Physicians

JAMA. 2010;304(11):1166-1168. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1315

To the Editor: Despite recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines urging health care personnel with flu-like illness to avoid working,1presenteeism (working while sick) is prevalent among health care workers.2 Ill health care workers can endanger patients and colleagues due to decline in performance or spread of disease. Resident physicians may face unique pressures to work when sick and lack time to seek health care. Using a multihospital resident survey, we determined self-reported presenteeism rates and associated factors among residents.

In August 2009, anonymous surveys were sent by 2 authors (D.C.B. Jr, S.R.D.) to 744 residents in postgraduate year (PGY) 2 and 3 in general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, internal medicine, and pediatrics at 35 programs in 12 hospitals selected for varied geographic, size, and governance characteristics. Using a 50-item survey that broadly evaluated residency training, residents were queried regarding their prior academic year (2008-2009), “Were there occasions that you think you should have taken time off for illness, but did not do so?” Presenteeism was defined as a resident endorsing “once” or “more than once.” Residents also were asked, “Did your schedule permit adequate time to see a physician regarding your health?” using yes/no responses. Results are presented by the training year assessed in the survey. χ2 analysis using SPSS version 14 (SPSS Inc, Chicago, Illinois) was used to compare rates of presenteeism and adequate time for physician visits by PGY status (PGY-1 vs PGY-2), sex, medical school location (United States vs other), specialty, and hospital. Statistical significance was defined as P < .05. This study received institutional review board approval and waiver of written consent.