Can Doctors Take Sick Days?

Dr. Green awoke on Tuesday morning with a high fever, chills, and an awful cough. His body ached all over, and he could barely drag himself out of bed to use the bathroom. “How am I supposed to go into the hospital to work feeling like this?” he asked himself.

Chances are, as a physician, you’ve probably been in a situation like Dr. Green’s. For many professions, calling in sick is usually nothing more than an inconvenience, but can doctors take sick days? Their jobs rely on taking care of people and sometimes even saving lives. What is a doctor to do when they’re seriously ill? Keep reading to find out!

Can Doctors Take Sick Days?

In a word, yes, doctors can (and should) take sick days. However, there’s often much more to calling in sick than a simple phone call.

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Why Do Doctors Work When They’re Sick?

If there’s anyone that shouldn’t go to work sick, it should be healthcare workers, right? Their job is to keep people healthy. Well, for physicians especially, missing a day of work can be a huge deal. There are many factors that cause doctors to feel as if they shouldn’t take sick days. Self-sacrifice is a huge part of their jobs, and just one individuals’ absence can cause tremendous stress for other employees. Their colleagues will be forced to take on additional responsibilities, the facility will be short-staffed, and, worst of all, patients will be left with inadequate care. Resisting the pressure to go to work while sick can be extremely challenging for doctors. It may be possible to work with a bad headache or stomach pain, but how sick is too sick for work?

When Should Doctors Call in Sick?

There are certain illnesses that physicians should never go to work with. Here are a few of them:

  • Gastroenteritis. Better known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis should stop doctors from working. Restriction from patient care and the patient’s environment is highly recommended for any healthcare professional with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Strep throat. Strep throat is very contagious, and any physician infected with it should avoid patient contact until they receive antibiotic treatment.
  • Viral respiratory infections. Like strep throat, these illnesses are very contagious. They include influenza, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and others. Typically, an individual with a viral respiratory infection is most contagious during the first three days of the illness. So, doctors should steer clear of high-risk patients during this period of time.
  • Pertussis. Doctors with a persistent cough lasting more than a week may have pertussis. If so, they should not work until they’ve had five days of antibiotics. Pertussis can easily spread to patients, so physicians who have been diagnosed with it should avoid patient contact.

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How Should Doctors Prevent Illness?

In order to avoid becoming ill and, in turn, avoid having to make difficult decisions about work, prevention is key. First, doctors should make sure that they are up to date on all vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and tetanus. Additionally, yearly flu shots are strongly recommended since they can not only decrease the risk of contracting influenza but also decrease the chances of getting an upper respiratory infection. Naturally, physicians should practice proper hygiene and wash their hands regularly. If you must work while ill, consider wearing a surgical mask to keep germs away from patients. While it may look strange, your appearance will let patients know that you care about their health. Doctors should also practice proper self-care, as stress-induced illnesses are very common in the medical field.

What do you think? Can doctors take sick days? If you’re a doctor, how do you go about deciding whether or not to call in sick? Let us know in the comments below!


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1 Comment

  1. Although a physician, the best advice is when sick a contagious illness is actually to stay home to begin with.

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