Healthcare Blog of Dr. Remo Aguilar

Mental Good: How healthcare professionals balance career and personal lives

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“To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.”- Confucius

About a month ago a colleague committed suicide just a day after her hospital duty . She was working 72 hours straight without sleep for weeks, but not even her family had an inkling she was about to take her own life.  Two days ago I talked to another friend who is disappointed with his medical career because of the so many challenges he is going through. He is beat up. Today, I talked to another healthcare professional and the same “tone of disillusionment”  is palpable as tears well in the corner of her eyes.

“This is not what I signed up for medicine”  was the bottom line for this three healthcare professional.

Disappointment, frustration or simply “burnt out”  is a well known but rarely verbalised, “not so secret” secret among colleagues in the healthcare profession. In fact, it is so common in the medical profession we’ve considered this part of the “normal challenges” of our career path and we expect every physician to survive it. Of course the sad reality is that not everyone survive this challenge.

Some of them end up dead.

While the cases of suicide among healthcare professionals maybe small and sporadic (an outlier) what surprises us the most is that nobody seem to have an inkling that physician or healthcare professional A is depressed and suicidal until he or she is actually dead or dying.  Are healthcare professionals good at hiding depression and frustrations or have the general public gotten used to the notion that healers ought to endure superhuman problems and heal themselves?

The devil is in the small details.

Most of the telltale signs of depression are what we see as “normal” in the day to day existence of a healthcare professional. Seventy Two hours straight duty? That’s normal. Most even brag about it. Felt bullied by a senior? “Oh thats just normal. That’s needed for you to harden up.” Sometimes, our health system exerts tons of pressure upon a healthcare professional, yet it doesn’t provide an outlet for overcoming stress, deprivation and disillusionment.

When colleagues on rare occasions do come to me seeking advise on what to do with their career and personal life, I am tempted to answer drawing from my own experience. How do you balance professional and personal life really? I realized though that my experience might be an outlier too and would not be applicable to anyone else even if we thread the same career path.

So i bring these dilemma for discussion here on our tweet chat.

T1. As a healthcare professional, how do you balance professional and personal lives? Where do you draw the line of caring for others without harming your personal lives?

I have seen obviously sick or sleep deprived physicians tending to patients, a dangerous situation for both patient and professional.  Where do you draw the line here?  If you are a patient, what would you suggest to your healthcare professional knowing he is sick or is sleep deprived?

T2. What counsel would you give to a disillusioned, depressed colleague who seeks your advise,  besides seeking professional help? 

We always give advise to disillusioned or depressed colleague but we rarely knew or had the chance to follow up if they really did.  What other advise can you give?

T3. Can you give an example of the “lowest low” in your medical career and how were you able to overcome it?

Join us this Saturday, May 20, 2017 9:00PM Manila time as we bring balancing life, depression and medical career into the discussions of health in the Philippines!

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).

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