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Have a Little Heart – Showing Compassion for Your Caregivers

Recently I was reading about the newest studies on the importance of Vitamin D in our diets and somehow I ended up on the mailing list of one particular research company.

When I received their newsletter, I clicked on the link intending to unsubscribe, but an article title caught my eye so I kept reading.

Am I ever glad I did.

The author of this article is a medical doctor with over twenty-five years of experience so I paid attention to his thoughts and his findings.

Did you know that over 1/2 of doctors feel burned out?

Maybe you did, but do you know why?

A substantial portion of U.S. doctors suffer from burnout on the job, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Of the nearly 7,300 doctors who participated in the survey, nearly half had at least one symptom of burnout; 38 percent had high emotional exhaustion scores; and 30 percent had high depersonalization scores (viewing patients more like objects than human beings) – twice the rate of the general population of working adults.

Burnout was most common among doctors at the “frontline of care,” such as those working in emergency rooms, general internal medicine, or in family medicine. Nearly 60 percent of doctors in these specialties reported high levels of burnout.

Doctors also report being dissatisfied with work-life balance more frequently than other working adults, with more than 40 percent of doctors reporting dissatisfaction compared to 23 percent in other professions.

The main complaint was excessive work hours – on average, doctors worked 50 hour weeks, with nearly 38 percent of doctors working 60 hours a week.

According to this physician (as he recalls his own experience in medical school), the whole medical training system is rigged for failure and more upsetting…abuse of doctors in training.

A recent article in The New York Times discusses the bullying culture of medical school, stating:

“For 30 years, medical educators have known that becoming a doctor requires more than an endless array of standardized exams, long hours on the wards and years spent in training. For many medical students, verbal and physical harassment and intimidation are part of the exhausting process, too.

It was a pediatrician, a pioneer in work with abused children, who first noted the problem. And early studies found that abuse of medical students was most pronounced in the third year of medical school, when students began working one on one or in small teams with senior physicians and residents in the hospital. The first surveys found that as many as 85 percent of students felt they had been abused during their third year.

They described mistreatment that ranged from being yelled at and told they were ‘worthless‘ or ‘the stupidest medical student,’ to being threatened with bad grades or a ruined career and even getting hit, pushed or made the target of a thrown medical tool.”

Now factor in the debt accumulated to get through medical school, the challenges of patient care, and the ever-escalating cost of malpractice insurance.

Does it make you feel like quitting?

It would me.

I suppose the reason why this article affected me so deeply is that I think the world of my caregivers and to imagine their ongoing challenges to serve patients well when confronted with such obstacles makes me want to “make it all better.”

What can I say, I’m a woman (and a mom.)

Given that I can’t eradicate all of the above injustices and pressures, I want to do what I can by verbalizing appreciation and demonstrating gratitude to each of my physicians by:

Thanking them each and every time I enter their office.
Listening to their counsel when they give it.
Follow their instructions after we’ve agreed on the best course of treatment.
Demonstrate graciousness when I have to wait longer than I’d like or expected.
Always, always see the person behind the professional demeanor.
Give them room to have a bad day and not judge them for it (or speak poorly of them afterward.)

I think about that simple adage, “There’s always more to the story…” and try to see people (all people) as 90% mystery and 10% understood. Which means, I rarely understand why a person says/does what they say/do unless they tell me.

So having a little heart and showing a lot of compassion just makes sense to me. I know it’s how I want to be treated. How about you?

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