Why Doctors Don’t Take Sick Days

IVby Danielle Ofri
 New York Times Op-Ed 

The bottle of Maalox sat perched on the triage desk in the emergency room. It was mint flavor, or maybe lemon — I don’t recall exactly — but it shimmered temptingly. I had just finished with a new admission, and my stomach had been groaning ominously for hours. It was after midnight, the whole night was still ahead of me, and I was getting desperate. I scribbled the last of my medication orders and snagged the Maalox bottle, popping the top and chugging two revolting capfuls on my way to the elevator.

As I rode upstairs, I could feel the intestinal protestations growing. There was going to be an apocalyptic resolution to this. The elevator opened and I burst into the restroom, just in time to disgorge the Maalox and everything else into the toilet, conscientiously keeping my white coat and stethoscope clear of the fray.

I staggered into the call room and flopped onto the couch. My fellow resident listened to my tale of gastrointestinal woe and did what any residency buddy would do: he slid an 18-gauge IV into my antecubital vein and strung up a bag of IV saline. I spent the pre-dawn hours prostrate on the couch doing phone work — renewing medications, answering calls from nurses, ordering labs — while my colleagues did the foot work on the wards and in the emergency room. Together we kept everything running.

After morning rounds, I caught a few hours of sleep at home, showered, and then reported back to the hospital at 10 p.m. for my next shift.

What I didn’t do was call in sick.  (read the full Op-Ed in the New York Times.)