What’s up Doc?
This is a slightly different post to my usual.
I want to talk about well-being amongst healthcare professionals.
The people that look after you when you are sick are humans too but it can be hard to view them as anything more than the doctor/ nurse/ psychologist in front of you. They have a life outside of the workplace, they have their own families, insecurities and problems.
Doctors, nurses, first responders & all members of the healthcare profession make huge sacrifices for their patients and do so willingly.
But who looks after them?
Mental health problems amongst medical personnel is at an all time high. If we don’t look after our healers they can’t look after you.
Yet, we are a profession that is notoriously bad at seeking help for ourselves. It’s a common theme of jokes “doctors/ nurses make the worst patients”. We provide diligence to our patients but it’s a hard pill for us to swallow when we need help ourselves.
What are some of the reasons behind the resistance for a healthcare worker to seek the same help they provide without a second thought?
A study published by the lancet offered several reasons for this.
An old fashioned and harmful rhetoric that still bleeds into the healthcare industry: “we don’t get sick, we treat the sick”. It’s hard for healthcare workers to accept they are not infallible and often this narrative alone prevents them from seeking help, often meaning problems are advanced by the time the do access care.
The well-being of doctors is becoming increasing challenged.
The medical field is an unusual one.
For most of us, we give up our twenties to dedicate ourselves to studying or long hours working as junior doctors. We are often forced to make difficult balances, missing out on important life events and socializing because of the restraints of the profession. It’s not uncommon to battle to get leave for major events such as weddings or funerals.
Often, we can’t just go home when our work day is supposed to finish because we are looking after someone in their moment of need. We stay late because we care.
But this can come at a cost.
Our contracts can mean constant changes, junior doctors move around every 4 months, sometimes this means transferring miles away from your loved ones. This can make things like registering with a general practitioner difficult.
Long shifts, antisocial hours, plugging gaps in rosters, studying for endless exams and extracurricular activities can take their toll both mentally and physically.
Often these are accompanied with limited access to healthy food or basic self care including rest, relaxation or exercise.
There is an undertone within the healthcare profession that being anything less than perfect 24/7 is failure. Fear of disclosure and the implications it may have on our license to practice I’m sure is a common barrier to seeking help.
Doctors have an increased rate of suicide compared with any other profession, high rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, burnout, imposter syndrome and substance abuse. But it doesn’t get talked about. It remains “taboo”.
The resources for help aren’t made readily accessible, the encouragement to seek help is virtually non existent. This needs to change as early as medical school training. This needs to be openly discussed and normalized. Otherwise the stigma stays and nothing changes.
Doctors are making life or death emotionally demanding decisions. This is what being a doctor is. But sometimes the weight of these decisions is enormous without resources to help.
The threat of litigation is real, the trauma of some of the decisions they face, with often no debrief or acknowledgement of the enormity of these decisions.
Burnout rates are increasing.
Dealing with uncertainty is something doctors become adept at, changes in rosters, no two days being the same.
Teamwork can be challenging when there is conflict between management and the frontline workers or finite resources.
It’s not uncommon to come across bullying and not enough is done to mitigate or reduce this.
If you are a healthcare professional what were the barriers you faced to seeking help? I’d love to hear your experiences
What do you think needs to happen to protect our community’s wellbeing? How can we do this?
There are some charities that exist but again they’re not widely known about. I’ll share some links below. If you know of other’s please share.
- “You okay doc” charity https://youokaydoc.org.uk/about-us/
- The Laura Hyde Foundation: https://laurahydefoundation.org
3 thoughts on “What’s up Doc?”
I think it’s absolutely crucial for regulators to stop treating mental illness and physical illness differently. The Health Professions Act in my Canadian province requires hospitals to report any health professional hospitalized for psychiatric reasons to their regulatory college. There’s no room for individual assessment of risk to the public; it’s just if your diagnosis happens to be in the DSM, you’re getting reported. It’s blatant structural stigma and a strong disincentive to seek treatment.
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That’s shocking and yes that’s not surprising it’s a barrier to seeking treatment.
Wonder what it will take for the system to change.
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I don’t know. I’ve certainly tried to get loud about it, but no one seems to be interested in listening.