5 reasons why healthcare providers come to work sick

Female nurse looking stressed
The number of healthcare workers who come to work sick is a serious problem. (Getty/gpointstudio)

They may know better, but many healthcare providers still decide to come to work when they are sick.

In an NEJM Journal Watch blog post, Paul E. Sax, M.D., takes a look at a study that listed the five reasons healthcare workers gave for showing up when they are sick, even though they might infect patients and co-workers:

  • They can still perform their duties.
  • They feel an obligation to co-workers.
  • They don’t feel bad enough to miss work.
  • They don’t think they are contagious.
  • They feel a professional obligation to see their patients.

"That’s a lot of sniffling, coughing and potentially mask-wearing healthcare providers out there," Sax writes.


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Healthcare workers who come to work sick are a serious problem within the industry. One study last year found that the issue is particularly acute among part-time workers without paid sick leave, since they risk the loss of income when they call out sick.

Another study concluded that it will take an institution-wide approach to stop the practice and encourage clinicians to stay home when they are sick. Hospitals and healthcare institutions can help prevent the problem by having backup staffing measures in place so that sick workers can stay home without fear of compromising patient care.

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