A medical degree takes ten long years to accomplish, so long in fact that practitioners can’t wait to start their careers in the medical field. Alarmingly however, around ten years into the practice, many doctors either retire or shift careers. Behavioral sciences call this phenomenon burnout.
Often, burnout even happens before the decade of the study is over. A research by Jafari, Loghmani, and Montazeri entitled Mental health of Medical Students in Different Levels of Training found that 25 to 50% of medical students experience depression and anxiety, with up to 50% reporting burnout.
The same follows doctors in residencies or fellowship trainings. More than 50 percent of residents report depression, with burnout rates as high as 75 percent.
But what causes it?
An article by Dr. Aymes last July 2017 looked at the concept of physician burnout.
Dr. Aymes believes that doctors don’t get enough time outside of their work. Over the years, healthcare has become more accessible to the general population. This has affected the doctor-patient relationship. Because of the ratio of patients to doctors, quality care is compromised for the sake of giving everyone their share of the doctors’ time.
This is aggravated by the advent of electronic medical records and call schedules. Technology nowadays would even allow for patients or hospitals to call the doctor 24 hours a day even at home.
Dr. Aymes notes that although EMRs have made communication easier between and among medical practitioners, these can actually take up a significant amount of time to fill up. Such time to a practitioner is not easily available. Patient visits lose their empathy and the few minutes spent between the doctor and the patient are over a piece of paper.
The same idea follows for a doctor’s responsibility to any concerns that involve patient EMRs. All this can be done at their whim via messaging systems that doctors are obligated to address. At the cost of accessibility comes more strenuous administrative concerns that further encroaches on practitioners’ peace of mind.
Patient satisfaction scores are increasingly becoming more important in the practice. Because of new advancements in the healthcare system, patients are given the freedom to rate their physicians as to the quality of service rendered. This is ideally beneficial as it will help to promote better healthcare practice. However, that is not the case in the practical sense. Patients would often give low scores to doctors who don’t cater to their every request. Often, it is the patient’s misinformation that results in low satisfaction scores. Other times, it is because the doctor refuses to treat the patient unethically such as when they request for unnecessary prescription drugs. Patients may also be non-compliant or even hostile towards doctors.
These factors have taken their toll on modern day physicians. Although the work hours on paper reflect the same numbers over the past few decades, doctors are increasingly becoming more and more challenged. This has resulted in severe stress levels that culminate to early retirement, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
Although the system does cater to the needs of the public – and doctors have always been perceived to be public servants – it should not be in such a way that physicians sacrifice their own physical and emotional health if only to help that of their patients.
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