Poor teamwork significant factor in sick leave for hospital doctors

May 09, 2001

Sickness absence in hospital physicians: 2 year follow up study on determinants 2001; 58: 361-66

Hospital doctors take little sick leave, but poor teamwork is a significant factor when they do, reports a study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers analysed sickness absence over two years in 1997 and 1998 among 251 male and 196 female doctors working in 11 different hospitals. This was then compared with rates among senior nurses, all of whom were women.

Physical and mental ill health were the main reasons for sick leave in both doctors and nurses. But doctors took a third to half the sick leave of senior nurses, with male doctors taking less time off than female doctors. Being married was associated with less sick leave among male doctors and nurses, but not among female doctors.

Among work factors behind sick leave, doctors in poorly functioning teams were almost twice as likely to be off sick for three days or more as doctors in collaborative teams. The quality of teamwork far outweighed other work stressors, including workload, heavy on-call duties, or job control, and was more important than social circumstances outside the workplace. But overload was the strongest predictor of work related sick leave among nurses.

Male doctors drank the most, but female doctors drank significantly more than nurses. Heavy drinkers did not take more time off, however, and the authors ask whether this could be putting patients at risk.

Dr Mika Kivimäki, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland. mika.kivimaki@occuphealth.fi

BMJ Specialty Journals

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