The doctor is SICK

Trials and public reporting
May 30, 2011
Busy over the summer
July 25, 2011
Trials and public reporting
May 30, 2011
Busy over the summer
July 25, 2011

Hi everyone, hope you’re doing well.  I am recovering from the Canucks’ loss last night and moving on.  I think the Bruins were the better team in the series, as much as it pains me to admit it, so Game 7 was not a surprise for me.

I wanted to ask your opinion on another topic.  You see, I am also recovering from gastroenteritis.  Not a terribly bad one, but I was, and still am, quite uncomfortable at times.  I was feverish and had chills.  I worked the whole time.

I actually think it is inappropriate for doctors to work when ill like I was.  It is hard to give patients your full concentration – and cardiology can be a life or death specialty.  You risk spreading communicable diseases to them and the rest of the hospital; some patients may not recover as quickly as you will.  It is also bad for my own health and recovery – I needed rest and fluids, not hospital rounds.  I was able to concentrate on my patients, but it was not easy.  I hated working but I did not see any other option.

You see, I was on call.  No one wants to do call if they don’t have to.  There are no other cardiologists available during the on call day and the internist on with me is particularly uncomfortable with cardiology.  So, I didn’t really have a viable replacement; I got sick at the last minute with no advance notice.  As well, my office is booked 3 months in advance.  Cancelling clinic would be a major inconvenience for these patients who would have to be rebooked and wait that long –  I would squeeze in who I could sooner, but the summer is very busy, with one of my colleagues on an extended vacation, and even my urgent slots are filling.

So I saw no choice but to work and just get it done.  I think I am usually pretty good at hand-washing and tried to be particularly meticulous so no one got my illness.

I am curious what you think.  Should doctors work if they are sick?  What if there is no one to replace them and they are in an essential specialty (i.e. life or death – cardiology, surgery, medicine, ER, and others)?  If your doctor was sick would you be willing to wait 3 months, or more, for a rescheduled appointment? Do any of you work in other occupations where your absence would cause MAJOR problems?  Let me know.


  1. gabika says:

    You are our Hero! and we thank you for doing such a great job.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is unfortunate you had to work while sick. But sick or not it is obvious you care for your patients and do a great job.

    Win or not I love the Vancouver Canucks.
    Now if you could be their Cardiogist in addition to the Vancouver Whitecaps – that would be awesome!

  3. Andrea WA says:

    Sadly, doctors don't operate the same way many other professions do. As much as I really do think that we should stay home and prevent the further spread of illness, it really isn't an option. We do week-long CTU-like shifts at the hospital here, making the schedule a year in advance. Trying to find a last-minute replacement to take over our week would be impossible, so you suck it up, wear a mask, wash hands like crazy, and plow through the week as best you can. So basically–what you said.

  4. Chris Leigh says:

    I think selfishly, of course, that I wouldn’t want to wait 3 mos. extra. I haven’t even got to see you yet for an appointment, but I still have to work even though I frequently need to sit down and allow my pulse to go down. My business wouldn’t survive if I wasn’t working. So yes I think it’s ok to work unless the illness would endanger the patient.

  5. Tobias Jesso says:

    Unfortunately for healthcare, politics and it’s accompanying endless rhetoric are now fast friends. Thank you COVID. No one trusts words any more. Until the cracks are widely seen by a voting public covering up deficiencies will not help the system get better.

  6. Eva Blake-Knox says:

    Just like in the airplane emergency, a mother would put an oxygen mask on herself first and then put it on her child. You need to take care of yourself first then help others. In my profession (IT) we were expected to come to the office while sick and I despised it. I could not focus or concentrate, and with migraines, driving was an issue. Not a good as a long term strategy. When I became a manager, I asked my team not to come to work sick. It was well received.

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