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How Doctors are Faring: More Than Just Burnout

Dana Corriel, MD, opens up about feeling "bittersweet" seeing yesterday's NYTimes headline about how we fare today, as doctors.

June 16, 2023

It’s bittersweet to see a headline that speaks volumes of how we’re faring within the healthcare system of today, as doctors.

I’m speaking, of course, about the NYTimes’ The Moral Crisis of America’s Doctors, published yesterday, making front page news.

More Than Just Burnout

Here’s why I’m using “bittersweet” as the adjective to describe my emotions about this article.

On one hand, I’m glad that it’s finally getting the attention that it deserves.

In my own household, this has been going on for much longer than the 4 years since I’ve left clinical medicine, swapping it out for something scary and new.

As a physician-duo, my husband and I have experienced, first hand, the breaks of the system, and have held regular conversations – many devolving into vent sessions! – about how current state of affairs work.

On the other hand, I’m not happy that this is our reality.

I won’t go into the level of commitment one must make when entering into our incredible field at the start of this arduous journey. You literally become enveloped in your pursuit, as you tackle becoming a doctor of medicine, and it feels a lot like you’re wearing a fur coat that you just can’t take off (no matter the weather). It’s not even about all that you have to do to become a doctor, it’s also about all that you sacrifice. The missed opportunities of earning a medical degree amount to where we find ourselves after all is said and done, leaving residency training without knowledge of other important life skills, like business, and investing, and.. even cooking, for some.

 

“You literally become enveloped in your pursuit”

 

On another “Debbie Downer” hand, is the NYTimes coverage really going to make a difference?

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that an article of this kind stirs up much-needed conversations and continues to raise awareness on the issues we face as the leaders in healthcare.

But we have been addressing them for well over two years, here at SoMeDocs.

Is nobody listening?

I could certainly half-understand why this topic wasn’t taken seriously when I wrote about it almost 4 years ago, for Medscape. Having left medicine, and having taken a stand, I was shocked at the backlash I received from colleagues in the field.

It’s admittedly not my best piece. But I was also directed to write about a specific angle, when my first draft – highlighting, line by line, the reasons that I left – was turned in.

Here’s my take, looking back now: it’s easy to wave off doctors who break away from the system and label them as dissenters. Worse, it’s even easier to say that they weren’t strong enough when they chose to step aside.

But where does that leave those doctors who were quick to criticize, as they stay within, willing to fight, but continually getting abused? Does it feel good because they’re that much closer to their own finish line?

I was shocked to have read the nasty comments that replied to my article. It certainly came from the heart.

In sharing my truth openly and honestly, with the rest of the world, I had hoped I was sharing a glimpse into what many of us honestly feel, even if most of us merely bottle it up on the inside.

This is so much more than burnout. And I honestly don’t even care what word gets used to describe it. I’ll adapt to using that term, with each iteration and evolution.

It’s about a system that doesn’t work as it stands.

It’s about the future of our health, and whether we desire to preserve the beauty ad importance of our profession, and continue enticing the best of the best of the younger generation, to pursue it.

 

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My son is now heading back to college, on a pre-med track (at Northwestern). I’ll be waving him off with trepidation come August, uncertain whether the field he’s chosen to pursue, at this moment of time, will truly be one where he’ll find happiness. I’m trying not to persuade him, knowing my own experience doesn’t represent that of the mass. But I’m also holding on to every last ounce of hope that our field will somehow straighten out, if enough of us come together to speak up about what doesn’t work within it – and actually impact change.

In the meantime, I’m also focused on keeping the good docs in.

I know that I left, but I discovered unique skills since then, that I believe will help fuel change. It begins with amplifying our voices. Our businesses. Who we are, as the celebrities within a system that can’t run without us (quick mention that other celebrities exist within the system, too, like the dentists, and podiatrists, and nurses and front desk staff, and janitorial team, etc).

Here’s the bottom line that worries me and keeps me at this, tirelessly: if all of our BEST doctors burn out (or get morally injured, or however you want to think of it) and leave, who will take care of the health of our children?

 

End Note: I want to take a moment to quickly shout out Dr. Diana Girnita, a SoMeDocs NETWORK member who was not only quoted in this article, but whose photo also appears within. For other doctors that can be reached out to, and quoted in media, use our Doctor Directory.

 

Diana Girnita MD, PhD, FACR

 

Additionally, kudos to Drs. Wendy Dean and Simon Talbot, who also get quoted in this article. They appeared as episode guests of Dr. Samuel Shem (author of The House of God, Man’s Fourth Best Hospital, and more), in our exclusive series called “House of God’s Conversations with Shem“, which you can watch here.

 

Conversations with Shem: Season 2

Dana Corriel, MD

Dana Corriel, MD

“I haven’t LEFT medicine, I’m simply taking time to tackle its issues from a different angle. I’m stepping out of the traditional medicine box.”

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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