When most people think about hospitals and injuries, they think about patients. But recent research demonstrates that physicians can put themselves at risk, too – simply by virtue of practicing medicine.
In a recent issue of Bone & Joint Surgery, a trade publication for orthopedic surgeons, author Manish K. Sethi, MD showed which surgeons get the most injuries at work: orthopedic surgeons.
Specifically, Sethi found that 44 percent of respondents to his survey – nearly half – reported that they had sustained at least one work-related injury at some point during their careers. One in ten respondents reported missing work as a result of the injury. “In some cases, injuries caused surgeons to lose 3 or 4 weeks of work,” reported Dr. Sethi.
Why? The nature of the work. Orthopedic surgeons work with the hardest, toughest parts of the human body. And while we do have modern tools that make this work much easier now than it was on past generations of surgeons, these doctors must frequently make concerted exertion, and spend significant time in awkward positions.
The most likely injuries were to hands (25 percent), lower back (19 percent) and neck injuries (10 percent). The longer the time the surgeon reported having been in practice, the more likely they were to report having been injured.
Interestingly, only about a quarter of them reported their injury to their hospital or other health care institution or employer. 23 of the 140 respondents, or 38 percent of those who had been injured, reported that there were no institutional resources available to support their recover from injury.
These results broadly confirm earlier reporting that a large portion of accidental injuries to surgeons go unreported.
The issue of workplace injury is important to doctors in any branch of medicine. While orthopedic surgery may be more strenuous than other specialties, any doctor could be injured on the job, whether as a result of a repetitive motion injury, a slip-and-fall on a wet floor, an accidental needle stick or other exposure to pathogens, or an encounter with a violent patient.
Many doctors assume that worker’s compensation will cover them for these incidents. But worker’s compensation generally only covers statutory employees. Many doctors are independent practitioners. They don’t have an employer, so there’s no one to take out worker’s comp on their behalf. This means that for many of you, millions of dollars in future earnings are at risk.
If this is you, chances are you’re only carrying the coverage you yourself arrange. This should be individual disability insurance coverage.
If you own your own policy, you don’t have to worry about whether an injury is work-related, or due to an illness or anything else. If you are unable to work, chances are good you will qualify for benefits.
Don’t risk financial disruption or a career ending injury without taking steps to protect your income.