We turn to our emergency medicine physicians when we fall ill, however, who takes care of our caretakers? For several decades now, studies have consistently shown that physicians have higher rates of suicide than the general population — 40 percent higher for male doctors and a staggering 130 percent higher for female doctors. It’s astonishing, albeit not entirely surprising considering the amounts of physical suffering, physical pain, and death that they encounter on a regular basis. An emergency medical physician is taught to respond to a disaster immediately, and maintain a certain level of professionalism and detachment when delivering less than positive news to a patient and/or their family. Bottling up these emotions or even living devoid of them altogether can take its toll on an individual.
Although the specific numbers aren’t known, it is believed that since the 1970s, an estimated 300 to 400 physicians commit suicide on an annual basis due to physician depression. That number is equivalent to roughly the size of a small medical school. The most alarming aspect of this situation is that the demand for physicians has reached critical concern, with an estimated need for up to 90,000 physicians by the year 2025. This has made it much more important for physicians to both take care of themselves and also be taken care of in terms of quality of life, and to receive adequate support staff.
Mint Physician Staffing is an emergency medicine physician locum tenens staffing agency that not only helps physicians find contracted jobs, but also helps them lead a healthy lifestyle along the way, from job to job. Here are some ways that an emergency medicine physician can take care of themselves:
- Build Healthy Personal Relationships
Every medical school student finds out early on how difficult it is to both develop and sustain healthy relationships with friends and love interests. The process of working to become a qualified emergency medicine physician is a grueling one that involves rigorous studying and pouring through complex material all hours through the night. Finding time to date and hang out with friends can be challenging. It doesn’t get much easier post residency, nor does the workload become lighter. However, spending time with loved ones in-between work is important to the mental and emotional health of an emergency medicine physician and not something to be taken lightly.
- Take Up Personal Hobbies
One of the contributing factors to physician depression is a lack of taking up personal hobbies or interests. It’s a virtual certainty that anyone who buries themselves in their work and doesn’t bother to nourish their personal interests is going to find unhappiness in their lives. Phycians are encouraged to find joy in their personal lives and avoid letting the burden of work invade their personal space, thoughts, and life.
- Consult with a Therapist or Support Group
One of the primary issues with individuals suffering from physician depression is that they don’t feel as if they have someone they can turn to. Contrarily, there are doctors who specialize in consulting other physicians on the matter of depression. They understand that the everyday grind of caring for sick individuals, especially children, and not being able to deliver positive results can take its toll on the psyche. Anyone who is uncomfortable with seeing a therapist for fear that they may run into a colleague or a patient is encouraged to find comfort with friends or family and discuss their depression issues there.
- Take Care of Debt as a Financial Stressor
It’s no secret that physicians are paid well for their services, however, what goes unnoticed is the amount of financial debt they tend to accumulate as a result of their studies. Medical school is expensive and can often leave graduates with averages of $170k in debt. This can be a mounting issue for a fresh grad school student struggling to establish their career, take care of personal expenses, and pay back loans that can tack on hundreds of thousands in interest. Establishing a debt repayment plan as soon as possible can help ease the mind of nagging letters from debt collectors.
- Don’t Forget Who You Are at the Core
One of the most important things for an emergency medical physician to keep in mind is that being a physician is what they do, not who they are. Utilizing medical jargon is fine at the hospital, office, or among peers; however, the average citizen isn’t familiar with that terminology. Physicians often feel depressed and alone because they’ve inadvertently isolated themselves from the rest of the world. They put on the white coat and tuck away their personalities, causing a growing sense of personal resentment. It’s important to maintain one’s personality, healthy interests, and participate in activities that have nothing to do with work.
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