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education Updated: Feb 22, 2012 09:36 IST
Hindustan Times
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The lowdown
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine dealing with the treatment and prevention of mental illness. Mental disorders are characterised by a variety of symptoms such as abnormal moods or behaviour, excessive anxiety and hallucination. Many mental disorders are believed to result from a combination of emotional, social and biological factors. To treat the patient, a psychiatrist might discuss problems with one patient, prescribe drugs for another, and combine discussions, drugs and therapy for third. They deal with the science of mental health, wherein clinical disorders of psychiatry, and problems pertaining to social, occupational, and psychological concerns, are treated with medication and counselling. Since they help many patients with mental problems lead almost normal lives, psychiatrists play an important role in society

9am: Reach hospital
10am: Examine patients
Noon: Take stock of the administrative work of the hospital
1pm: Lunch
2pm: Visit specialty clinics such as child guidance and psychosexual centres
4.30pm: Case discussions and seminars
7pm: Call it a day

A doctor who is an independent consultant would have a different work schedule depending on the timings of the clinics he attends

The payoff
Most doctors would be working as consultants with hospitals or private clinics. Some may have their own set-ups, or have temporary arrangements with hospitals. The pay is usually based on the number of patients one examines. It may go up as you grow in experience. One can also work with international agencies such as the World Health Organisation, Unicef etc, or with PSUs and government setups like jails, or large organisations that have their own medical facilities. Other avenues are research or becoming an adviser at pharmaceutical companies producing psychoactive drugs.

In a government set-up, the pay bands are Rs 50,000-60,000 a month (entry level), Rs 80,000-90,000 a month (middle level) and Rs 1-1.5 lakh a month (senior). In a private hospital, a doctor would get more or less similar pay. However, a senior doctor with a good practice and experience may earn more than R2.5 lakh per month

* S/he must be a good listener
* Have a lot of patience
* Ability to strike a rapport with the patient
* Ability to empathise
* Ability to remain detached from the patient’s problems

As a part of the extensive training that psychiatrists undergo during their residency, they are taught medical and psychological skills

Getting there
You would need to pass the medical entrance, then complete MBBS, and then appear for PG exam followed by MD in psychiatry

Institutes and URLs
* NIMHANS, Bangalore
* CIP, Ranchi
* PGIMER, Chandigarh
* AIIMS, New Delhi
* KGMC, Lucknow
* MAMC, LHMC, New Delhi

Pros and cons
* Satisfaction when a patient improves or is rehabilitated
* No ‘emergencies’ in this line
* One can rise fast as India has fewer psychiatrists
* Some of stigma attached to mental illness may rub off on the doctor
* Earning not proportionate with the time spent on a patient, compared to other branches of medicine
* You may fall prey to depression while continuously treating patients with mental imbalance

The field has excellent prospects as there’s a significant shortage of psychiatrists in our country. Psychiatry is now a well-established branch of medicine Samir Parikh, chief psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Healthcare, New Delhi