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Sick medical professionals pose threat to patients

A startling new report in JAMA Pediatrics shines a light on a dirty part of medicine that no one really wants to talk about: the fact that doctors are inherently around a lot of sick people, and that they, too, can become sick. That leads to many doctors, nurses and other medical personnel setting foot in medical facilities while they are not well, and it can compromise the care they give while also putting certain patients at risk of getting a sickness that could cause serious complications.

The survey pooled results from 536 doctors and advanced practice clinicians. The key part of the study is this contradictory statement: 95 percent of respondents believe that coming to work while sick puts patients at risk, and yet 83 percent admitted to coming to work with symptoms that indicated they were sick. 9 percent of respondents even admitted to coming to work sick at least five times in the past year.

On the one hand, you have to feel a little bit of sympathy for doctors and medical professionals. Inherent to their job is working with sick people, and thus they are far more likely to get sick themselves. That's an obvious problem, given the work that they do. There are schedules and critical tasks that need to be completed with a full team on hand.

And yet, no medical professional should be setting foot in a medical facility when they are sick. The negligence is clear: a doctor is willingly putting patients at risk by walking through the facility and spreading his or her potentially contagious illness.

Source: Reuters, "Many docs come to work sick," Kathryn Doyle, July 6, 2015

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