Problems faced by doctors are not only innumerable but are also so exceedingly complex and diverse that they are difficult to be analysed. It is common to listen doctors discussing these problems whenever one of these crop up. If so many doctors feel so disgusted about the entire system that they do not encourage their children to take up this profession which until now was one of the coveted ones, there must be something going terribly wrong with the profession. The challenges in this profession are too many and difficult to analyse.
1. Medical courses are Comparatively lengthy and expansive study course and difficult training with slave like duties: that I have discussed in one of my previous article on “enslavement of doctors”.
2. Uncertain future for aspiring doctors at time of training: Nowadays, doing just MBBS is not enough and it is important to specialise. Because of lesser seats in post graduation, poor regulation of medical education, uneven criteria, ultimately very few people get the branch and college of their choice. They have to just flow with system ultimately.
3. Hostile environment for doctors to begin: Suddenly young, meritorious and bright children who came out of training find themselves working in a hostile environment, at the receiving end of public wrath, law, media for reasons they can’t fathom. They face continuous negative publicity, poor infrastructure and prejudiced beliefs of society.
4. Difficult start of career of doctors: After a difficult time at medical college, an unsettled family life and with no money, these brilliant doctors begin their struggle. Even before they start earning a penny, the society already has its preconceived notions because of negative media publicity and half treats them as cheats and dishonest. Their work is seen with suspicion and often criticised.
5.The fear and anxiety about the actual treatment, favourable and unfavourable prognosis of patient, keeps mind of a doctor occupied.
6. Doctors are blamed for all malaise: The society gets biased because of the media reports and some celebrity talking glib without proper understanding of inept medical system , administrative failure and complexity of medical industry. These lead to formation of generalised sentiment against all doctors and are then unfortunately blamed for all the malaise in the entire healthcare system.
7.Doctor’s personal and family life suffers: Large number of patients with lesser number of doctors is a cause of difficult working circumstances, and the frequent odd hour duties have a very negative impact on the family and personal life of the doctor.
8.Risk to doctor himself: Repeated exposure to infected patients in addition to long work hours without proper meals make them prone to certain health hazards, like infections which commonly include tuberculosis and other bacterial and viral illnesses. Radiologists and interventionalists get radiation exposure. Because of difficult working conditions, some doctors are prone to depression, anxiety and may start on substance abuse.
9.Unrealistic expectations of society: Every patient is not salvageable but commonly the relatives do not accept this reality. Pressure is mounted on doctor to do more while alleging that he is not working properly. Allegations of incompetency and negligence are quite common in such circumstances. These painful discussions can go to any extent and a single such relative is enough to spoil the mood for the day.
10.Retrospective analysis of doctor’s every action continues all the life-It could be by patients and relatives every day in the form of “ Why this was not done before” ? Everyday irritating discussions, arguments, complaints, disagreements add to further pain and discontentment, in case the patient is not improving. Or it could be by courts and so many regulatory bodies. Unfortunately, if there is a lawsuit against a doctor, he will be wasting all his time with lawyers and courts, which will takes years to sort out.
In these court cases, the doctor is at disadvantage since his decision which is now being questioned was taken at that time in good faith using all his wisdom. The decision in retrospect may not turn out to be the best one, but later retrospective analysis along with wisdom of hindsight over many years, may label it as faulty if a fault-finding approach is used. This along with general sentiment and sympathy with sufferer makes medical profession a sitting duck for punishments and lawsuits. Even if the doctor is proved to be not guilty, his harassment and tarnishing of reputation will be full and almost permanent. No doctor has time to pursue such things all the time. Even if such events don’t happen to everyone, the very fear of such possible scenarios and their possible complications always lurks in the back of their mind.
11. Physical assault , routine instances of verbal abuse and threat happen for no fault of theirs. Many become punching bags for the inept medical system and invisible medical industry. The threat of physical assault is quite real as well. Recently, even female doctors have not been spared by mobs. Silence of prominent social people, celebrities and society icons on this issue is a pointer towards increasingly uncivilized mindset of society.
12. Medical industry may be rich but not the doctors: The belief that doctor’s is a rich community, is not correct. Although decent or average earnings may be there, but earnings of most doctors is still not commiserate with their hard work viz-a-viz other professions. Doctors who also work like investor, a manager or collaborate with industry may be richer. But definitely most of doctors who are just doing medical care are not really rich.
13. Windfall profits for lawyers and law industry at the cost of doctors is a disadvantage for medical profession: I have seen zero fee and fixed commission ads on television by lawyers in health systems in certain developed countries. They lure patients to file law suits and promise them hefty reimbursements. There is no dearth of such relatives, lawyers who are ready to try their luck, sometimes in vengeance and sometimes for lure of money received in compensations. This encouragement and instigations of lawsuit against doctors is a major disadvantage for medical profession.
14.Overall, a complex scenario for doctors: There is increasing discontentment amongst doctors because of this complex and punishing system. They are bound by so many factors that they finally end up at the receiving end all the time. They are under Hippocratic oath and therefore expected to work with very high morality, goodwill and kindness for the sufferings of mankind and dying patients. They are also supposed to maintain meticulous documentation and also supposed to work under norms of medical industry. They are supposed to see disproportionately large number of patients with fewer staff and nursing support while still giving excellent care in these circumstances. And if these were not enough, the fear of courts and medico-legal cases, verbal threats, abuses, and physical assaults and show of distrust by patient and relatives further makes working difficult. Additionally there may be bullying by certain administrative systems at places, who use pressure tactics to get their own way.
With so many adversaries, the situation is like sailing a small boat in a tornado.
At present, with this mindset, the losers are the doctors and medical profession. But the society should be able to foresee its overall loss in the long run if these practices continue.