Coping Strategies for Challenges Faced by Medical Professionals
Healthcare contributes substantially to a person?s education, earning capacity and development. It has become India?s largest sector in terms of revenue and employment. India?s competitive advantages lies in its large pool of well trained medical professionals. As per statistics, the cost of surgery in India is about one-tenth of that in the US or Western Europe. In terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare, India ranks 145th among 195 countries.
It takes 5.5 years to complete the M.B.B.S. degree, with 4.5 years of academic education and 1 year of mandatory internship. A medical student can further specialize in a preferred field by completing required studies. While becoming a medical practitioner is prestigious, it is a long journey and requires discernment while applying the acquired education.
What are the stresses experienced by a medical professional?
Stress can be caused by physical, emotional or situational triggers. It usually affects the emotions and causes psychological symptoms. Sometimes it can manifest into physical ailments as well.
Most medical professionals experience the following challenges:
? Long hours: Firstly doctors don?t work as per the 9 hour norm. Depending on the specialization, the work hours can vary. A physician with an independent clinic may run it depending on the hours seen fit. However, may be asked to do home visits during work hours, over weekends, late at night and so on. So a doctor is expected to be available around the clock in case of emergencies.
? Balancing work and life: The long hours put in by doctors affect their personal time. With patients reaching out at odd hours and during festivals due to emergences, a doctor is left with little scope to decline requests, especially if the on call diagnosis screams emergency.
? Personal responsibility: Even in the presence of a team working together during surgeries, it is the responsibility of the doctor to take quick and life-changing decisions. One mistake could have serious consequences or even lead to death of the patient.
? Pressure from the patients? family members: Since surgeons carry the responsibility of patients, loved ones of the patient blame the doctors for anything that goes wrong with a patient, irrespective of the actual cause. Lawsuits are filed against doctors; sometimes the patient?s family members even attack the doctors.
On 17th June 2019, about 800,000 doctors across India went on strike to demand better working conditions, following years of complaints about violent attacks from patients? families. The final straw was when Mohammed Sayeed, 75, died at a hospital in Kolkata on 10th June 2019. His outraged relatives attacked the first doctors they saw at the hospital. Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, a junior doctor, was walking down a corridor at NRS hospital with a colleague when a group of men attacked them. They were brutally beaten even though they were not involved in the treatment of the deceased person. Paribaha suffered a fractured skull and needed a craniotomy. This is one of the many cases reported by doctors. Indian Medical Association (IMA) surveys reveal that 75% of doctors have complained of verbal abuse and 12% of physical violence.
? Unfavorable environments: Doctors are usually surrounded by hurting patients. It can be challenging both mentally and emotionally to witness people in pain. Especially, if the patient is a child or suffers from terminal illness. It is human nature to feel sadness and pain.
Burnout is inevitable after running around for 10-12 hours, constantly interrupted by patients, having patients demand their attention and empathy, reaching saturation levels of processing information and having to make quick decisions. This is a normal day in the life of a doctor.
? Building Trust: One of the most important factors in a doctor-patient relationship is trust, and if the patient refuses to trust the doctor, explaining procedures and recommending treatments can be nearly impossible. Top doctors have the knowledge, experience and certifications needed to make necessary recommendations but those recommendations are only as good as the cooperation of the patient.
How can medical professionals deal with stress?
Stress cannot be avoided and neither can the stressful situation. Stress doesn?t only impact the medical professionals but also the people they encounter. Medical professionals can follow the guidelines mentioned below to cope with stress:
? Be assertive. Learn to say No.
? Take control of the environment.
? Avoid discussing volatile topics.
? Avoid people who stress you out or keep minimum contact.
? Express feelings instead of bottling it up. Have a support group.
? Manage time.
? Focus on the positive.
? Take time off when required.
? Take up hobbies, sports or exercise.
? Medical professionals can undergo training to deal with stress.
? Use visualization techniques or guided imagery to relax and deal with anger, pain, insomnia and depression.
? Listen to music that relaxes the muscles.
? Engage in deep breathing techniques.
? Practice professional detachment where the professional maintains emotional distance from the person in pain. It is a necessary skill to function well in a medical environment.