I have always told others that, to be a doctor, one needs to truly love the practice of medicine. I’m currently immersed in a world of medicine that is the polar opposite in every way from the one I was previously immersed for 6 years. Some of these strike me more and more as I dive deeper into the program…
One of the most important opposites: physician self-care.
It starts as students: Late nights. Hours of lectures. Numerous exams. Junk food. Expectations. Responsibilities.
And worsens once a graduate: 24-36 or more hours without rest every few days. 80-100 hours a week. Skipped meals. Junk food. Ignored friends and family. More lectures. Conferences. Expectations. Responsibilities. Overworked.
In the allopathic medical culture, if you can’t “deal with the pressure” then “you’re not cut out” to be a doctor. Would you prefer to be treated by a rested doctor who has the emotional capacity to be sympathetic to your ailments? Or would you prefer the sleep-deprived starving doctor who hasn’t seen their family, spouses, children and simply wants to get a move on to end their day?
How does one begin to fix this deeply ingrained ideology and behavior that has been passed on through scores of generations of doctors?
‘I’ve read articles that refer to suicide amongst doctors as the profession’s ‘grubby little secret’, but I’d rather call it exactly how it is: the profession’s shameful and disgusting open secret.
‘Weakness in medicine is a failing, and if you admit to struggling, the unspoken opinion [or often spoken] is that you simply couldn’t hack it.’
‘… it was a sink or swim culture – and often trainees were left to sink.’
Where is there room to take care of oneself?
The beauty of self-care is that it comes in all forms and fashions. All that needs to be done, is to take a moment in the day at least once or twice a week to do something you love. Art, journaling, meditation, music, sleep, running, yoga, qigong, kickboxing, cooking, baking, knitting, crafting, sewing, reading, writing, spending time with friends and loved ones, hiking, swimming. Whatever it may be, it only needs to be something that brings a smile to the heart.
What good is the unhealthy physician with the forced-upon-them-poor-lifestyle to the people who are seeking health? What health can such a person truly offer? It becomes then a matter of working in the medical industry – this is no longer healthcare.