REALITY CHECK. When you're not there ... the money stops.
Why I Left Medicine: A Burnt-Out Doctor’s Decision To Quit
Dr. Diane Shannon — plagued by constant worry about her patients and fear of medical errors — walked away from a career as a physician. (Courtesy)
"When I introduce myself as a physician who left clinical practice, non-physicians ask me why I left. They’re generally intrigued that someone who sacrificed many years and many dollars for medical training would then change her mind. But physicians, almost universally, never ask me why I left. Instead, they ask me how. They call and email me with logistical questions, wanting to learn the secret of how I managed the transition out of clinical medicine (read “escape”).
The suicide rate among women physicians is more than two times that of women in the general population.
"It may be dramatic and self-serving to frame my career change as a way to avoid suicide, but I can attest that medicine was not conducive to my health. As an internist, working in adult outpatient clinics around Boston, I had trouble leaving my work at work. I’d go for a run and spend the entire 30 minutes wondering if I’d ordered the right diagnostic test. I suffered from chronic early morning wakening, even on my weekends off. I startled easily. I found it impossible to relax. I worried constantly that I’d make a mistake, like ordering the wrong dosage of a medication, or that a system flaw, like an abnormal lab report getting overlooked, would harm a patient. I no longer remembered the joy I’d felt when I first began medical school, and I couldn’t imagine surviving life as a doctor...."
MEDICAL PROFESSION OVERLOAD
Everything changed when Congress enacted the national health law. Key change of course was the potential tsunami of newly insured patients. This not only flooded the deliver system but put enormous additional pressure on the already over extended healthcare providers.
The system for decades has had a workforce shortage so has not been prepared to meet effectively this overload. The fact is, it takes years to train new physicians, nurses and other professionals. The need is overwhelming.
In addition to this problem, the estimated 2.8 million registered nurses (RNs) and the 985,375 physicians currently working, one-third will likely retire in the next decade. Workforce projections anticipate a critical shortage of between 91,500 to 130,000 physicians and the need for an additional 300,000 to 1.2 million registered nurses by 2020.
What does this mean to healthcare professionals in general? If nothing else, time is against them. They cannot meet the demand that is being thrust upon them? It's time for a reality check. What will they do when their energy — and time runs out? When their time stops, their money stops. That's reality.
A 2012 study found that almost half of the practicing physicians surveyed had one or more symptoms of burnout. An online poll in the same year of more than 24,000 physicians found that only 54 percent would choose medicine again as a career, compared with 69 percent in 2011.
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