Doctors: Sick to work is the norm

Many doctors, nurses and carers risk the infection of patients rather than lack

To work despite potentially contagious disease - for many doctors and hospital staff everyday. © freeimages
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Fatal Conscientiousness: Many doctors and nurses go to work sick - although they know that they endanger their patients. A US study showed that more than 80 percent of hospital staff surveyed had diarrhea, fever or cold at least once in the past year. The most common reason for unreasonable behavior: Bad conscience towards colleagues.

Actually, the facts are clear: most commonplace diseases such as diarrhea, colds and co are caused by bacterial or viral agents - and are therefore contagious. Contact with the exhaled air or the patient's hands may be enough to transmit the pathogens. The immune system of healthy people can often fend off this attack without consequences, but this is often not the case with already sick patients in the doctor's office or in the hospital.

Paradoxical behavior

It would therefore be obvious that hospital doctors and caregivers are particularly careful not to endanger their patients even further. But is that the case? Julia Szymczak and her colleagues have now checked this out for 280 doctors and 256 medical assistants and nurses at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

The paradoxical result: 95 percent of the respondents believed that it is a risk for patients when a doctor or carer works despite an infectious disease. Yet, 83 percent of them admitted to having appeared ill to work at least once last year. The symptoms of her infections ranged from diarrhea to fever, cough and other cold symptoms.

Consideration for the colleagues

But why this contradiction between knowledge and action? The researchers also asked their colleagues about this. The result: more than 98 percent indicated that they did not want to abandon their colleagues. The knowledge of the congestion that is already in place and the problems that would cause a lack of care for patients make them move to work against better knowledge. display

In addition, especially in the hospital often the motto is: Who does not carry the head under his arm, which can also work. Many physicians and staff were also unsure how severe the symptoms must be so that they can be "good conscience" missing for the benefit of patients, as the researchers report.

Sick as a stigma

"This shows the complex social and logistical factors that cause this unhealthy behavior, " explain Szymczak and her colleagues. In their opinion, it is urgently necessary to clarify matters here and, above all, to better regulate representation in the event of illness. In her opinion, having recognized the problem is an important step in changing this grievance.

"Creating a better system here requires cultural change, " says Jeffrey Starke of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, in an accompanying commentary. Because especially in the medical field, the sick registration is still occupied with a stigma. Those who are missing too often, quickly get the image of the "Dr ckebergers" who remains at home even at the slightest pain.

Although the researchers have collected their results in a US hospital. Nevertheless, it is obvious that in this country it should be hardly different. Because even in Germany hospitals there is a chronic shortage of staff and already in the normal case, many doctors and the ward staff are overloaded. That the austerity in the process the health of staff and patients falls victim to, seems to take it into account. (JAMA Pediatrics, 2015; doi: 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2015.0684)

(The JAMA Network Journals, 07.07.2015 - NPO)