When Doctors Are Sick, Should They Continue to Come to Work?

Most doctors continue to come to work even when they are sick. Some even wear their dedication and sacrifice as a badge of honor. However, there’s mounting evidence that such an ethic may be dangerous to the people for whom the doctors are striving to serve-patients.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, ““The culture of medicine is so completely focused on self-sacrifice that when doctors come into work so sick they need intravenous fluids, it’s considered a badge of courage,” said Dr. Eric Widera, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “No one is standing up for the patient and saying, ‘This is wrong.’ ”
While in other work settings, dedication and self-sacrifice are lauded as exemplary, in the context of healthcare a sick healthcare worker can cause more harm than good. Let’s remember that the principal dictum for any physician is “Do No Harm”. Besides the very real danger of transmitting viruses and disease to patients, sick doctors are more likely to make diagnostic errors due to their ill health. When sick, they are not performing at their best which can lead to critical mistakes.