US doctors: status down, suicide risk high

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In the past four decades, US doctors have lost much of their status. In the mid-20th century, physicians were the pillars of any community. But Dr Sandeep Jauhar, director of the [b]Heart Failure Programme[/b] at the [b]Long Island Jewish Medical Centre[/b] writes in [s]The Wall Street Journal[/s], that today medicine is just another profession, and doctors have become like everybody else: insecure, discontented and anxious about the future.

In surveys, a majority of doctorsexpress diminished enthusiasm for medicine and say they would discourage a friend or family member from entering the profession. Most say they didn’t have enough time to spend with patients because of paperwork, and nearly half said they planned to reduce the number of patients they would see in the next three years or stop practising altogether.

Also, US physicians have a significantly higher rate of suicide than the general population and after accidents, suicide is the most common cause of death among medical students. Commenting on the recent suicide of two young interns, Dr Pranay Sihha, a first-year resident in internal medicine at [b]Yale-New Haven Hospital[/b], writes in [s]The New York Times[/s] that young physicians at the beginning of their training are particularly vulnerable.

Although hospitals recognise the toll residency takes on the mental stability and physical health of new doctors, providing confidential counselling services to help cope with the stress, people still fall through the cracks. He says, particularly fledgling doctors feel pressure to project intellectual, emotional and physical prowess beyond what they truly possess. It is, therefore difficult to identify colleagues in trouble – or admit the need for help.

Full report in The Wall Street Journal
Full report in The New York Times
Medscape: Physician Suicide

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