Why doctors work while sick

Sickness often won't get in the way of doctors going to work and caring for patients. Despite the known health risks, studies indicate that physicians don't want to call in sick and let down their colleagues or their patients.

Stuart Kaplan, M.D., chief of rheumatology at Oceanside, New York's South Nassau Communities Hospital, has rarely taken a sick day in his 20 years of practicing medicine, he told The Rheumatologist, a publication of the American College of Rheumatologists. He took one day off after he broke his foot. He also gave in to his sickness when he had the flu and nearly passed out, according to the article.

But even when her water broke during a pregnancy, Alexa Simon Meara, M.D., clinical instructor and a rheumatologist at The Ohio State University, managed to get some work done while she took an official sick day.

"I was teaching medical students," she told the publication. "I had rounded that morning on a busy internal medicine inpatient service and had not finished my notes. While sitting in a hospital bed having contractions every three minutes and attached to a tocometer, I borrowed the nurse's computer on wheels and staffed all of my residents' progress notes from earlier that day."

Meara says that doctors--while not trying to be "martyrs"--realize that patients have to take a day off work and need to travel to see them. That's the key reason so many doctors show up to care for patients, even when they themselves are sick, according to The Rheumatologist.

To learn more:
- read the article

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