Respect the Hands that Heal
Doctor’s day went by some days back, and as I look back on that day, there are a few conversations I had with my colleagues that have stayed with me. It saddened me when a leading neurosurgeon who is a close friend was speaking to me about how he didn’t want his children to become doctors. He wasn’t sure if it was even worth it, with the kind of lifestyle we have, the kind of efforts we put in. That being a doctor just didn’t have the same space in the hearts and minds of people anymore. Another doctor I know for the past few months has stopped wanting to see emergencies, and wants to just practice in his outpatient clinic. The primary reason being “I don’t want to take the stress, because I don’t know what may happen in the emergency, and with all the kind of angst against doctors these days, I don’t think it’s worth it anymore”. Not long ago, young people took up this profession because it had a sense of meaning; to be able to go to work everyday with a sense of purpose that went beyond one’s own self, and to know that we had made a difference in somebody’s life. But today, given the prevalence of violence and angst against the medical profession, Doctors have begun to question these sentiments, and there’s a sense of reluctance that had taken over.
As we look at it more closely, we need to pause for a moment and think about the day to day anxieties that a medical practitioner goes through. The kind of reactions that come from the family of a patient is something that we all need to give an empathetic understanding to. By the very nature of the profession, there is so much that is not in one’s control, so many times that things may not work out despite one’s best efforts. These very exigencies have begun to make doctors live with a constant sense of anxiety, even dread. They feel afraid – how will people react towards me, if I break bad news, or if things don’t work out, even though I tried my best, things weren’t entirely in my hands…
At the same time, doctors continue to have amongst the highest rates of burnout, and amongst the worst work life balance. We expect them to be there for us, and more often than not they are available 24 hours – from texting and WhatsApp to taking phone calls and even hospital visits through the night – it’s like they’re always at work. Even when a doctor is on vacation or taking a break watching a film with the family, such is the upbringing, such is the value system that a doctor comes from, that they will still always be available – that they themselves are in the cycle where they feel a sense of concern, , accountability, empathy and responsibility at all times.
In this context, it is very important for a societal churning to take place, to think about how the medical practitioner also feels. Besides just recognizing doctors for one day on Doctor’s Day, we also need to look at how do we – both doctors and society at large are again able to find a connect, a trust. And I do believe it’s true, doctors also need to do their bit to rebuild this trust – educate, be aware, communicate and society also needs to be help us doctors improve our own work-life balance. When you do call your doctor, think for a moment before reaching out, be mindful about how the doctor may be feeling as well. And most importantly, understand that it’s the nature of the profession, it’s the commitment of the profession, that taking care of people is the thing that comes most naturally to us.
Our country today has a grave shortage of medical practitioners – there just aren’t enough doctors to look after the ailing. In this scenario, the need of the hour is to encourage more and more young people to take up this profession. We need to create an environment where people once more want
to become doctors -to restore the standing, the respect it once held in the eyes of us all.
So, this doctor’s day, let’s reflect and let’s be compassionate. It’s time to rekindle the connect, and most of all to remember that the doctor too, is human.