Despite knowing the risks, more than half of resident physicians polled in an anonymous survey reported having worked while experiencing flu-like symptoms at least once during the previous year.
Of the 150 residents who completed the survey, conducted at the 2010 meeting of the Illinois chapter of the American College of Physicians, 77, or 51%, said they had worked when sick. Sixteen percent said they had done so at least three times in the past year. The most common reasons residents gave for working while sick were a sense of obligation to patients, a reluctance to force colleagues to cover shifts and fear about how sickness-related absences would be perceived.
According to the survey results, published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine
, only 9% of residents said they believed they had ever transmitted an illness to a patient.
The authors pressed for more discussion among resident educators about the dangers associated with working while sick.
"In addition to adequate systems of coverage and occupational health guidelines regarding working when ill, faculty should ensure that residents are taught that refraining from work while ill is the best and most professional way to ensure responsible and safe care for patients," they wrote.