Stressed-Out Doctors Have Consequences for Patients
Who takes care of doctors when they need help? This probably isn’t a question you’ve ever pondered. After all, medical professionals are there to help us, not the other way around. But considering the high rates of stress, suicide, and addiction among physicians—and how we trust them with our very lives—the discussion is an important one to have.
For people in the medical field, every day involves helping patients who are sick or injured, sometimes seriously. Doctors, nurses, and other professionals constantly have to make decisions about other people’s health. They also have to deal with patient’s loved ones, sometimes delivering unwanted news. Plus, they work long hours, usually on their feet. With this kind of work environment, it’s no wonder that doctors are stressed out!
The Consequences of Stress
But the issue is worse than just everyday stress. Thanks to their stressful job, about 30% of medical professionals show symptoms of depression, according to Time. Similarly, a study published in Current Psychiatry suggests that the rate of mental illness among medical professionals is about 15% higher than it is for the general population. They also face a high rate of “burnout” and are 15 times more likely than other professionals to quit their job. For example, 45% of primary physicians say they would leave their job if they could afford to. These issues can be particularly problematic for young physicians, who are unused to the grueling hours and ethical dilemmas that come with the territory, and female physicians, especially those who are also mothers.
As a result of this stress and burnout, many medical professionals grapple with suicide, addiction, and relationship issues. When it comes to both divorce and suicide, the rates are higher for physicians than they are for other groups. Additionally, more than 100,000 physicians across the United States deal with addiction, according to USA Today.
A Dangerous Impact on Patients
When a doctor is facing mental health issues, a personal crisis, or substance abuse, it can dangerously affect their ability to practice. Addiction, for example, might inhibit decision making skills and reflexes, or cause physical symptoms, like shaking or dizziness. This can become a hazard to a doctor’s patients. If a doctor is not performing their best work, it could lead to a mistake, negligence, or other type of medical malpractice.
Stressed-out medical professionals can have an impact on the care we receive. This, among other reasons, is why their mental health is an issue we should all be paying attention to. While you should still continue to hold your medical providers to the utmost standard of care, remember that they are people, too.
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