HealthDay News — Many physicians continue working and caring for patients while they are sick, according to an article published in Medical Economics.

A new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reports that four in 10 health care professionals report to work while experiencing influenza-like symptoms; many physicians work with a cold, fever, or other illness.

According to the article, there are financial penalties associated with missing work when ill, as well as pressure from administrators; missing too much work can result in a physician being placed under a Performance Improvement Plan, which will stay with the physician if they want to add or change licenses. 

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However, in flat capitated systems, physicians are less likely to practice while unwell. The article also notes that some physicians feel a sense of obligation to their patients that results in their working while sick. However, the level of sickness should be considered when deciding whether to miss a day of work. Medical educators are recognizing that the concept of working while sick is problematic and are introducing topics such as burnout, physician impairment, and self-care in their curricula.

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for physicians to go overboard and forget to care about themselves,” Matthew Mintz, MD, an internist from Bethesda, Md., said in the article. “Some of the traditions of medical training, such as long work hours and the value of independence, reinforce that the patient always comes first, no matter the cost.”

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Many physicians work when sick, but why? [press release]. North Olmstead, Ohio: Modern Medical Network. Published December 31, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018.