As a resident, my greatest pride was in never having missed a day for illness. I’d drag myself in and sniffle and cough through the day. Once, I’m embarrassed to admit, I trudged up York Avenue to the hospital making use of my own personal motion sickness bag every few blocks while horrified pedestrians looked on.
Now, though, I see the foolishness of this bravura. And I confront it almost daily in my primary care practice. No one can miss a day ”” a minute, even ”” of work, carpooling, volunteering, vacation, anything. “I don’t have time to be sick!” my patients wail. Everyone must soldier on, leaving sick days to those with less important things to do.
And many patients aren’t satisfied with sympathy and friendly advice. They have come to the office for that little piece of blue paper, the antibiotic prescription. “I would never ask for this under normal circumstances,” I’m told ”” except (pick one) I’m getting married tomorrow; leaving for a month in the Amazon; having 25 houseguests for the weekend.
Never mind that antibiotics are useless in treating colds and viral illnesses, and that they have their own dangers and side effects. Some doctors will write the prescription just to get on with their day.