We all recognize that being a Doctor is hard work, physically, mentally and emotionally. Very few other professions require the same amount of commitment, dedication and emotional engagement. A recent report has shown that Doctors have significantly fewer sick days than all other workers in the NHS. It is simply not the done thing to phone in sick, to believe that one is letting one’s team or patients down and to take the same advice that one might give to others – to look after yourself. This is part of the mindset of being a Doctor, high achieving, dedicated, unwilling to look like a failure.
Members of the medical profession continue to have high levels of stress, burn out, depression, divorce and suicide. Think that you are alone? Think again.
Caroline Elton is an occupational psychologist who has spent the last twenty years training and supporting doctors. She received her PhD from University College London’s School of Medicine and set up and led the Careers Unit supporting doctors in over seventy hospitals across London.
Her recently published book; Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors, looks at the phenomenon of how the medical profession fails to look after itself given the considerable strains that Doctors are under. Doctors have to cope not only with the stress of helping people cope with disease and suffering on a daily basis and taking significant responsibility for people’s lives, but also having to work in a poorly managed and organized health service which is chronically underfunded and over managerialised.
Drawing on extraordinary case studies and decades of work supporting clinicians, Also Human presents a provocative, perceptive and deeply humane examination of the modern medical profession.
This book contains deep insights about how clinicians work, how they are fallible and how they can fail to recognise their own problems when they may be clinically competent and externally viewed as very successful and resilient. Many are reluctant to let this façade fall and as a consequence the stress and the pressure to continue to be perfect and successful mounts. A decision to go for a career in Medicine is often made around the age of 16 – a well-recognised time for informed decision-making! It is difficult for anyone to form a realistic expectation of what life as a Doctor might be like at that stage, so when years later you may be stuck in a complex and messy job, it can be hard to see a way through or a way out. ‘Too many trainee Doctors realise too late that they are not cut out for the job. Many simply underestimate the commitment they’ve undertaken”.
Elton now works outside the NHS after many years and one comment from a GP referred to in an interview given to The Guardian newspaper, summarises the beliefs of many,
“A huge number of experiences brought me to my belief that the NHS doesn’t care. That it chews people up, spits them out”.
Purchase Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors on Amazon