KUALA LUMPUR: While many consider being a doctor a dream profession, a growing number of those working in the field find it miserable.
Numerous reports can be found on how a growing number of physicians and trainees are going through dark periods of turmoil due to stress.
Dr Elaine Cox, in an article on health.usnews.com, said statistics on the number of doctors-in-training and those practising medicine who faced stress was alarming, with about one-third of physicians reporting experiencing burnout at any given point.
“As a matter of fact, doctors are 15 times more likely to burn out than professionals in any other line of work, and 45 per cent of primary care physicians report that they would quit if they could afford to do so.
“Physicians have a 10 to 20 per cent higher divorce rate than the general population and, sadly, there are 300 to 400 physician suicide deaths each year.”
She said the lack of control over schedules and time could contribute to high-stress situations for physicians.
“This can result in poor sleep patterns, interference with family activities and events, and poor self-care.
“Because there is a patient in need at the end of every phone call and every office or hospital interaction, setting limits is beyond difficult.
“The result can be physical and emotional exhaustion, leading to cynicism and burnout. Add to that the increasingly litigious society in which we live, and there is a recipe for quite a few failures.”
Dr Cox said in a study published recently, medical students reported a rate of depression that was 15 to 30 per cent higher than the general population.
“This can lead to poorer performance, such as 6.2 times more medication errors, exactly the opposite of what we are striving for through the education process.”
She said many physicians did not recognise and seek help when they experienced early signs of burnout, primarily because of fear.
“Frequently, privileges and licences could be denied if physicians are under treatment for substance abuse or depression. Without those certifications, the source of livelihood, not to mention identity and many years spent in training, is lost.”
She said many feared that the struggles they faced would be noticed by the doctor they were getting the treatment from, and, as a result, many self-medicate, which was not a good strategy.
Alexandra Sifferlin, writing for Time.com, said research showed that almost 40 per cent of doctors in the United States experienced emotional, physical and psychological burnout from their jobs.
“The more doctors feel stressed about their jobs, the more they feel burned out and defeated by the healthcare system, leading to less motivation to improve conditions, both for themselves and for patients,” she said.