Many clinicians work while sick, despite risk to patients

Many clinicians report coming to work while they are sick, even though they acknowledge it could put patients at risk for a healthcare-associated infection, a survey published by JAMA Pediatrics found.

Study authors administered an anonymous survey at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and received responses from 280 attending physicians and 256 nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives.

Nearly all respondents (95.3 percent) said they believe that working while sick can put patients at risk. Despite that belief, 83.1 percent reported they had worked while sick in the past year, and 9.3 percent said they worked while sick at least five times.

The main reasons clinicians cited for why they work while sick include:

  • Not wanting to let colleagues down: 98.7 percent
  • Not wanting to let patients down: 92.5 percent
  • Fear of being ostracized by colleagues: 64 percent
  • Concerns about the continuity of care: 63.8 percent

"The study illustrates the complex social and logistic factors that cause this behavior," the study concludes. "These results may inform efforts to design systems at our hospital to provide support for attending physicians and [advanced practice clinicians] and help them make the right choice to keep their patients and their colleagues safe while caring for themselves."

More articles on patient safety:
Physicians missing glaring signs of sepsis: 6 things to know
100 patient safety benchmarks | 2015
Are CAUTI rates up or down? CDC, AHRQ data disagree, study finds

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