Should a Dentist Work While They are Sick?

An interesting article titled “Ethical concerns of working while ill,” appears in the Sept. 2015, issue of JADA (vol. 146, no. 9, pp. 711-712). The article talks about a dentist who over a period of a few days got progressively sicker. The article questions whether or not he should work or take time off until he gets over the illness.

The article discusses a NSF International survey of workers that says 26% of all workers go into work when sick. The article says that 42% of Americans  work while sick. The article states that dentists have an obligation to do no harm to their patients. If they report to work while sick and are treating older patients who have increased risk of getting pulmonary illness this can be a problem. The article states that dentists also need to provide a certain standard of care of treatment. If they are sick the quality of their work may be worse and thus they won’t provide care to the proper standard.

If a dentist reports to work while sick they may also get their staff members sick. This can cause a cascade affect in their dental practice. The article states

“As a practical matter, a dentist can greatly harm the working relationship with staff members if insistent that a sick auxiliary be at work. A perception of unfairness in the workplace can plague the psyche of the dental team who may prefer not to “go the extra mile”for an employer who is seen as unjust.”

The article also states that a dentist who reports to work may also not be truthful to their patients. This can occur if they are asked how they are doing and don’t fess up to being sick. The article says that sometimes it may be better for a dentist to just take some time off. Yes practice income may decrease as a result of this, but upholding the ADA code and providing your patients the best care possible is important.

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