Mission

Our medical system is in crisis

Physicians and medical providers have been teetering between stability and collapse, quietly dealing with slowly increasing rates of burnout, depression, and suicide for years. As we start to emerge from the health crisis of the 2020 pandemic, a few data points are very clear.

In 2021

  • 55% of physicians reported that they knew a colleague who had considered, attempted, or died by suicide. Pre-COVID, one physician per day committed suicide in the US – this is 1.4 times the general population and the highest suicide rate of any profession – and the numbers have only worsened since COVID.
  • Burnout is up from 40% in 2018 to a staggering 61% in 2021, yet only 14% of those who identify burnout as affecting their lives sought treatment for it.

 

We are teetering on a precipice and the only way this is going to change is if we start to talk about it honestly, rationally, and vulnerably. This is the mission. The data about physician and medical professional wellbeing doesn’t stop with suicide rates.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, Medscape reports as of 2021

20%

depression rate among physicians with burnout as a prime contributor

13%

have suicidal ideation

1%

have attempted suicide

And most alarmingly, 32%-41% of those with suicidal thoughts, told no one, which continues to perpetuate the cycle of burnout and depression.

Why does this happen?

How can people so educated let this happen to themselves?  We may know the signs, signals, impact, relapse cycles and treatment plans for managing mental health, but we seem to be the last people to seek treatment.  The reasons are clear when you take a moment to look.

The first obstacle is the deeply held belief within the medical community that medical providers should not struggle with mental illness. We believe that they (and we) should be able to manage, refocus their efforts/attention and ultimately, rise above their own human weaknesses.

But the problem is much bigger than willful neglect, the organizations that support doctors (HR, insurance, medical review boards, hospital credentialing, etc.) enforce consequences when someone seeks to use their health insurance benefits, requests medical leave, counseling, or in-patient treatment when the reason is mental health.

So what does a good doctor do, they hide it.

They keep their depression, anxiety, burnout and even suicidal thoughts out of the discussion to avoid any negative impact on their career that could come from telling the truth. Doctors and nurses are trapped by fears that reporting would cause added stress, risk job loss, risk loss of peer respect, and risk their ability to practice medicine altogether.

These collective issues have a ripple effect, negatively impacting patient care, increasing burnout and simultaneously increasing job turnover. Personally, it impacts home life and outside relationships.

Additionally, physicians are taught early on that altruism, professionalism, and separation of work and home life are critical characteristics of a good doctor and a fulfilling career.

 

While on the surface this sounds reasonable, it is a flawed foundation. Any self-sacrificing physician, who is unable to express the fullness of what they are experiencing becomes at risk. This is also inauthentic.

The compartmentalization of home life and work life is the basis of inauthentic living. Having to be one person here, another person there, and yet another person over there, is exhausting and leaves people confused as to which character is the true individual.

That to say, a life that is compartmentalized leaves the provider dissociated from their deep, core self.

Authenticity is the antidote

I define authenticity as:

“being true to one’s core self in all situations, relationships, and roles.”

It is a unification of one’s thoughts, feelings, core values, and actions.

When we as medical professionals realize that we are divided within ourselves, this is a sign to take action.

When we know we have fear about speaking up when we are deeply vulnerable, just as we would ask our patients to do, we need support.

Everyone I speak to about this issue sees the risk of not addressing it.

No one thrives in this state for long and yet, it is through this lens that a solution can be found.

Ongoing doctor and medical provider suicides, burnout, and job turnover, are just the tip of the iceberg. The good news is that resolving this challenge is possible.

And it begins with a single mindset shift.

You count.

You matter

You are as important as the work you do.

When you align the value of yourself and how important you are as a human being with the truth of who you are and what you bring to the planet, you land on one quintessential concept: authenticity

Bottom line: we are worth more.

We are worthy of consideration.

We are worthy of supporting each other.

We are worthy of not being ignored.

We owe it to ourselves to not ignore the problems around us, but to act.

We owe it to each other to hold the system accountable.

We owe it to humankind to usher in change. That is my mission: change.

Thank you for being a part of the change.

 

 

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