Half of Residents Report Working While Sick

Most frequent reasons for presenteeism include feeling obligation to colleagues and to patient care

THURSDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- About half of residents have worked while sick, with many reporting feeling obligated to colleagues and patients, according to a research letter published online June 18 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted a paper-based, anonymous, in-person survey of 150 resident physicians from 20 internal medical programs in Illinois to investigate the reasons for presenteeism (i.e., the act of working while ill).

The researchers found that 51 percent of residents reported working with flulike symptoms at least once, and 16 percent reported working at least three times in the last year. Second-year residents were more likely to do so than first-year residents (P = 0.51), and female residents were more likely to do so than males (P = 0.22). The residents who worked while sick reported feeling an obligation to colleagues (57 percent) and to patient care (56 percent), and second-year residents reported feeling a greater responsibility to be present for patient care than first-year residents (60 versus 46 percent; P = 0.21). Female residents were more likely than male residents to worry about being perceived as weak (18 versus 7 percent; P = 0.16), although few residents cited this as the reason for presenteeism (12 percent).

"Resident presenteeism should be better identified and addressed by medical educators and residency leaders," Jena and colleagues conclude. "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."

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