01 August 2014

Doctors who work while sick pose risks for patients, other health professionals and themselves. Attitudes need to change to ensure this potentially harmful practice is avoided, says New Zealand Medical Chair (NZMA) Chair Dr Mark Peterson.

“It’s vital that members of the medical profession maintain their own health and wellbeing,” says Dr Peterson, commenting on research presented in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal. “But this is often overlooked in the desire to provide care for patients.”

Research shows that doctors in optimal health are more likely to make better clinical decisions than doctors who are not.

Sickness presenteeism—working while sick—was reported by 82% of respondents in the survey undertaken at a DHB.

“This is of concern, both for the doctors’ own health, and for that of the patients they treat,” says Dr Peterson. “We appreciate that doctors don’t want to leave their colleagues in the lurch, and don’t want to feel as though they’re letting down their patients. But to take care of patients, they must take care of themselves.

“NZMA has a position statement on doctors’ health and well-being and this sets out a range of recommendations for practitioners, training establishments and employers. We would urge these to be carefully considered by all concerned.”

http://nzma.org.nz/sites/all/files/pos-health-and-wellbeing.pdf