Looking in the glass house, a physician’s life may look like a perfect picture. A nice house, nice family and a successful career.
What few people know is that this glass house can be easily shattered. Helping people feel better may be alluring as a career, but few people understand the challenges a physician faces.
Some scary stats
Many of us share the same strengths – intelligence, perseverance, and confidence. However, the top stressors of the job include lack of sleep, loneliness, 24-hour responsibilities and self- criticism which can lead to depression and even suicide.
In fact, physicians are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population. Here are some other scary stats…
- Depression is reported in as many as 30 percent of physicians
- Forty percent of suicides are associated with alcoholism, and 20 percent of suicides are associated with drug abuse
- Divorce rates are 20 percent higher than those in the general population
Getting to the root of the problem
How can physicians properly take care of others if they can’t even take care of themselves? Giving into the pressures of working longer hours, the demands of the patients, and regulatory demands from the government can lead to angry and despondent physicians.
The “normal” work week for a physician is 60 hours a week and a 40 hour week is considered part time. This leaves little time for physicians to develop proper interpersonal relationships, fitness regimens, and taking time for hobbies.
I hear patients complain about physicians that barely took the time to address their complaints or were short tempered. As the demands on physicians continue to escalate in conjunction with decreased pay, this temperament is bound to increase.
The solution is not an easy one, but it has to start with the emotional foundation. Physicians need to be mindful of their emotional and physical health. They need to develop a strong family foundation for support and take care of their bodies. Only then can the house of glass be transformed into a house of bricks to handle the stressors of this career choice.