In Marcus Welby, M.D., the early-'70s medical version of Leave It to Beaver, hospitals were depicted as sterile environments with shiny equipment and starched bed sheets. More recent medical dramas have gotten dirty: E.R., House, and Grey's Anatomy are a lot more likely to feature episodes in which a patient is admitted with a broken leg and later gets infected by flesh-eating bacteria. While not all TV medicine reflects real life (it's not that common to call a code black in order to extract a ticking time bomb from a patient's abdomen), new studies are published every month on hospital-acquired infections. Not even celebs are immune: According to reports, Michael Jackson suffered serious infection after his most recent nose job.
This raises an important question: Why do people get infected while in the hospital? The first and most obvious answer is that hospitalized patients are sick and vulnerable because their immunity is compromised. But hospitals are also dirty places that can (and do) serve you up a side of microbes along with that lukewarm bouillon. Hospitals house hordes of people with infections together in close quarters, and bugs are bound to spread. While some of this can be prevented through infection control, doctors frequently don't do a great job of washing their hands or their stethoscopes between patients. But there's another reason, which no one who works in a hospital likes to talk about: Doctors tend to show up to work sick.
Now, why would a doctor dare come to work with a contagious disease and examine my grandmother with germy hands?