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In caring for their patients, physicians strive to uphold the fundamental principle of medicine: primum non nocere – first do no harm. However, previous studies have reported that more than 80% of physicians come to work when they are ill.1–4 Numerous infections can be transmitted nosocomially, with some of the most common being the respiratory tract infections (RTIs).5 6
To explore this phenomenon, we created and sent three versions of an online survey to third year medical students, internal medicine and surgical residents, and staff physicians from the University of Toronto between June and August 2006. The questionnaire explored the frequency of working with an RTI and the factors that influenced this behaviour.
The response rates for medical students, residents and staff physicians were 149/202 (73.8%), 317/650 (48.9%) and 202/350 (57.7%), respectively.
The vast majority of respondents were ill for 1–2 days or more. Linear regression showed that when compared with residents, staff physicians reported an average of 0.9 fewer days with an RTI (p = 0.001) and students …
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