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What Do ER Docs and Their Patients Have in Common?

Louis Profeta, MD discusses the sobering reality of being sick as a healthcare worker.

July 7, 2023

Right or wrong, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. There’s an old saying…

What do ER docs and their patients have in common?

They both go to the ER when they’re sick.

In my more than three decades in the ER I’ve seen countless of my partners go to work when they were literally sicker than 90% of the patients they cared for on any given day. It’s not a god complex or a lack of caring about their patients. It’s a fundamental recognition that their absence will have a significant negative impact on an overworked partner that finally has a day off too. That combined with an understanding of medicine so that for the most part they know they probably won’t die and if they can just eek out a few hours maybe they can get through a shift, probably plays a part too.

 

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Our docs often even schedule their elective surgeries during their vacation time so as not to burden others.

Unfortunately I’ve also seen our docs literally work up until the point their water broke and some who worked to the point they became impaired with sepsis, heart attacks, pneumonia and other serious illnesses.

I’m not saying this is right but it’s a learned culture that reflects a job that is not easily filled if you are ill, one where the business has to be open 24/7, and one where the people in the trenches truly recognize how important a day off is and the necessity to maintain that culture.

Before you stomp your feet and spout off about how we risk making others ill, you do know we are exposed to ill people every day…right? We are cognizant of this and we mask up and practice good hygiene even when we are not sick. We assume we can get infected and make people sick even when we are asymptomatic. Our practice doesn’t change.

 

Before you stomp your feet and spout off about how we risk making others ill, you do know we are exposed to ill people every day…right? Share on X

 

Yes… we go to work sick. We have to. There’s often nobody to replace us.

You may not understand it…. But trust me when I tell you.

It’s because sometimes we are driven to care about you more than we are driven to care for ourselves.

Maybe though…We also at times might need a reminder that…perhaps slowing down, may be important too.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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