Jaipur July 01, 2023.

The medical profession has long been plagued by professional stress, burnout, and exhaustion. While mental health in the medical field has gained significant attention in countries like the United States, it has yet to receive adequate recognition in India. On the occasion of National Doctors’ Day, observed on July 1, a recent survey conducted by the Indian Medical Association has shed light on the alarming stress level experienced by doctors in the country.

The survey revealed that over 80 per cent of doctors are overwhelmed and stressed. It pointed out that fear of violence is the primary stressor in many doctors (46.3 per cent), followed by fear of being sued (24.2 per cent) and fear of criminal prosecution (13.7 per cent).

Conducted online over a period of 15 days, the survey received responses from 1,681 doctors including general practitioners, physicians, surgeons, gynaecologists and superspecialists working in private outpatient departments, nursing homes, corporate hospitals, and government hospitals. It highlighted the pressing need to prioritise the mental health of healthcare professionals.

Dr Urvi Maheshwari, a consulting physician at Mumbai’s Zynova Shalby Hospital, highlighted the demanding and stressful nature of a doctor’s life. “Juggling hospitals, emergency calls, and family responsibilities, doctors often sacrifice their own well-being. The lack of proper rest, sleep and nutrition coupled with the stress of treating critically ill patients can lead to declining health and hormonal imbalances. Therefore, it is crucial for doctors to prioritise thei mental health alongside their physical well-being,” said Dr Maheshwari.

Dr Ranjan Shetty, head of the department of interventional cardiology at Manipal Hospital, Old Airport Road, Banglore concurred. He said that stress was part of everyone’s life, and more so in doctors’ lives since they usually work long hours and are often put in situations where they deal with life and death. “Also, they are bound to make decisions that may affect the individual (the patient) and their families,” he said.

Acknowledging the multiple challenges that doctors face, including long working hours, high patient expectations, emotional exhaustion, and the burden of making critical decisions, Dr Pradeep Mahajan, a regenerative medicine expert, and stem cell researcher, said that neglecting mental well-being could lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, ultimately affecting both doctors and patient care.