If you opted for a career in the medical field, no doubt the prospect of saving a life or bringing a new life into the world attracted you. The benefits of a rewarding job where dedication and skill are in high demand appealed to you. But the daily reality is, of course, less enchanting as you deal with the challenges, difficulties and frustrations. Here are 15 things nobody mentioned when you opted for a career in medicine.
1. You understand the high suicide rate.
If you are a doctor or surgeon, the stress of making a mistake and living with it afterwards is almost intolerable. It is estimated that 98,000 people die a year because of medical errors. The effects on medical staff speak for themselves. One doctor a day kills himself, according to the the Journal of the American Medical Association. The medical profession is the one with the highest suicide rates and this is mainly due to undiagnosed and untreated depression. You know that there is nothing wrong with getting treated for depression although the figures tell another story.
“If we teach doctors to recognize depression in themselves, they will recognize it in their patients.”- Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
2. You have to keep up with electronic developments.
Doctors are notorious for their bad handwriting. This can lead to mistakes when the pharmacist misreads the prescription. A shocking 7,000 deaths used to occur a year because the wrong medicine was given and administered. You are acutely aware of this and now electronically send the prescription straight to a pharmacy of your choice. You know that this is important because there has been a 90% drop in medical errors since this technology was introduced.
3. You cannot stand the colleagues who will not admit their mistakes.
If you are a nurse, you have a tough life with the schedules and shifts which can upset your sleep and rest and it takes ages to adjust. But the worst thing of all is when your colleagues cover up their mistakes and do somersaults rather than admit their guilt. You may have to consider a career move unless you can overcome the backstabbing and politics. You console yourself with the thought that there is energy and healing in your hands until you find something better.
4. You hate patients who consult Dr. Google.
If you are a doctor, you know how many patients (around 35%) have already diagnosed themselves on Google before they even get to your office. They know all the answers, risks, diagnosis and their chances of recovery. This is extremely irritating and you wonder if they ever realize how much training you have had to do. You try to suppress your irritation and tell them that Google is not always a reliable source.
5. You need to have incredible stamina.
People think that a career in the medical world is exciting, dramatic and even glamorous. The harsh reality is that if you are a doctor or nurse, you know only too well that you have to have incredible stamina and energy, just to survive. The average nurse has to walk more than 4 miles a day when she or he is on shift. For doctors, long and irregular hours plus the fact of being on call for emergencies calls for boundless energy and stamina. You know that the only solution is to take care of yourself and not get stressed out or exhausted.
6. You may have to face the nightmare of a malpractice lawsuit.
If you are a doctor or nurse, you know that the nightmare of medical malpractice lawsuits is never far away. The numbers of these suits aimed at doctors has skyrocketed. God, fate and age are no longer blamed for death. The doctor is in the first line. The greatest number of cases are in the OB/GYN where doctors have to pay about $200,000 a year for their insurance. You are only too keenly aware that the more preventive tests you order, the more you are likely to make an error as the possibilities multiply. You sadly reflect that the best protection is to keep as up to date as possible about the latest developments in your specialty.
7. You are the unsung heroes.
Imagine coming into work on a voluntary basis to save your hospital from collapsing? The pressure on A&E (Accident and Emergency) units in the UK is facing a crisis as winter illnesses overwhelm the hospitals sinking into chaos because of staff shortages and cuts. The Royal College of Nursing said that working overtime was a now a daily reality for many medical staff. The doctors’ union warned that long hours were unsustainable and was putting patients’ lives at risk.
8. You are constantly being monitored.
There are now so many organizations online that monitor health care that you feel that are being constantly monitored. The pressure is enormous as patients shop around for the best possible medical care. It is now a pay-for-performance world and the insurers are calling the tune. Every patient you look after is monitored long afterwards to see if they have to be readmitted. If you are a hospital executive under pressure you know that the best way forward is partnering with the patients who are now very well informed.
“Patients are no longer content with what they had to put up with in the past. Instead of a one-sided relationship, we are now partnering with our patients. It’s actually a great time for us to renew our commitment to quality, safety and patient satisfaction.”- Lynne Wagner, Chief Nursing Officer at Denver’s RoseMedicalCenter.
9. You have to put up with difficult patients.
You know the ones I mean. They are demanding, impatient, entitled, argumentative and hostile! They complain and demand enormous chunks of your time. To avoid arguments, simple solutions like written notices in your office about medication refill procedure will help. As regards the difficult customers, the best solution is to try and hone your communication skills. It is irritating but you may have to listen more. You may have to reflect on how you are communicating complex medical terminology in everyday language.
10. You are trying to avoid burnout as best you can.
When you get burnout as a nurse you are paying a very high price for working conditions which must be improved. Look at what you are expected to tolerate. You have the same rates of pay and with additional workload. Mental and physical exhaustion are just the results of working in a chaotic and stressful environment. This may put patients’ lives at risk. You are aware that the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are urging new nursing school graduates to take part in nurse residency programs. In the meantime, you dream about better support, more human scheduling and better compensation.
11. You are burdened with changes in legislation.
If you are a doctor running a medical practice in the US, you know better than I do that you have to convert to the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases-10th revision ) by October 2015. Apart from the costs which could run up to $100,000 for some small practices, there is all the hassle in revamping the systems in place for new software for billing and health records. Wherever you practice medicine, the state bureaucracy is always looking over your shoulder. The best solution is to seek advice from medical associations and be sure you are up to date.
12. You do not see a bright future.
If you are a nurse, you know that there are never enough nurses! You gloomily look at the forecasts and note with alarm that in the USA, there will be a shortage of 1 million nurses by the year 2020. You also know that if there were enough nurses now, this would mean 6,700 fewer deaths. You feel proud that you are part of the glue that holds the medical system together.
13. You feel that your real job is being taken over by paperwork.
If you are a doctor, you spend more and more time online trying to cope with all the paperwork and keeping up to date, not to mention lifelong learning and self assessment for internists. A whopping 58% of doctors in 2013 spent more than one day a week on paperwork which jumped to 70% in 2014! You wonder why you cannot spend more time with your patients which is why you graduated. Now you know why more and more doctors are selling their practices.
14. You begin to wonder about the investment in time and money.
Training to be a doctor is no joke and is extremely expensive and time consuming. Some estimates say that you spend anything from 10 to 17 years to get qualified. Apart from the graduate training, you have to spend additional years at medical school doing lab work together with medical ethics. Then you have to spend more years training in your specialty. You may have to do a three year residency at a teaching hospital. The only consolation is when you save someone’s life or help someone get over a serious illness. Yes, it was well worth it!
15. You took a short cut.
If you decided that the easy way out to get into medicine as a PA (Physician Assistant) was a good idea, you are now beginning to have second thoughts. The tough thing is that while the training was dead easy with just two years, the chances of moving up the career ladder are limited to say the least. You are always working under supervision and have practically no autonomy. The only consolation is that there is a chance to move between specialties.
What are the worst things about working in the medical field? Let us know in the comments.