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Can medical residents’ depression affect your health care?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2015 | Doctor Errors

If you’ve watched any hospital-based television shows in recent years, you’ve seen the kind of long hours that medical residents put in. While there is a limit on the hours per week they can work, that limit is 80 hours. Couple those long hours with the stress of dealing with life-and-death situations in a difficult and competitive learning environment, and it shouldn’t be surprising that physicians in training suffer a much higher rate of depression than the average person.

Research recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that almost 30 percent of these doctors suffer either from depression or depressive symptoms. That’s considerably higher than the average 8 percent of people in the general population suffering from depression.

The studies of medical residents have largely been based on self-reporting in a profession where seeking mental health care can be frowned upon. Therefore the percentage could actually be higher.

Once doctors finish their residency, they generally have a more realistic schedule. However, some 400 doctors kill themselves annually. Access to drugs that can help the process along may well be a contributing factor.

So what does this all mean for those of us who rely on medical professionals for our health and in some cases to keep us alive? One dean of medicine notes, “Relieving the burden of depression among physicians in training is an issue of professional performance in addition to one of human compassion.”

He also contends that residents are discouraged from taking time off for their own or a family member’s illness and from “expressing vulnerability in the face of overwhelming emotional and physical demands.” One study showed a connection between residents who were “burnt out” and those who self-reported unprofessional behavior and less than positive feelings about their profession.

Sometimes, sadly, patients may be the ones who pay for a resident’s or other medical professional’s exhaustion, depression or other physical and emotional issues that impact their ability to do their job. If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured or made ill by the actions or negligence of someone in the medical community, it’s wise to seek legal assistance to help determine who can and should be held liable.

Source: Huffington Post, “A Staggering Number Of Medical Residents Suffer From Depression,” Erin Schumaker, Dec. 10, 2015

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