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First, do no harm

February 2016

How are you feeling today? If you paused for a second because you don’t feel 100%, it could be that you’re too sick to go to work. But if you’re like many hospitalists, you’ll probably go in— or are already there—anyway. But is working while ill really the right thing to do?

As flu season rages in many parts of the country, we take a look at how programs cope with sick physicians in our cover story. For many groups, physicians working sick is simply a fact of life.

Some physicians pointed out that their groups are so short-staffed, it’s a burden on colleagues to have to come in on their days off. Doctors also cite patient continuity to explain why they may work sick.

But as our coverage points out, even when hospitalist programs set up sick-relief systems, many physicians still report to work sick. While they don’t want to leave colleagues short-handed, they also feel like they’re shirking their duties if they’re not critically ill.

What’s the solution? Programs need to build in sick coverage for physicians and to let them know it’s OK to call out sick, but physicians could use some guidance from their groups and their hospitals about what constitutes “too sick to work.”

And even if programs don’t have the resources to pay doctors stipends for being on back-up, it would help to initiate a conversation about working while sick. Physicians may have no choice but to report to work with a cold, but maybe they should avoid certain patients who are immunocompromised.

It’s something to think about the next time you’re feeling a little under the weather—and scheduled to work.


Edward Doyle

Editor & Publisher


Published in the February 2016 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
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