Ever wondered whether the doctor treating you is all right himself? It’s not physical ailments that we are talking about, but stress, an intangible factor that affects mood, judgment and physical health.
In India, junior doctors and residents literally live at the hospital, on call at any time and for any length of time. They routinely do 36-hour shifts, which can go up to 48 hours in departments such as neurosurgery. Take the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).It has 700 interns, most of who do frequent 24-hour shifts. If they are attached to surgery, they may have to be in hospital for over 48 hours.
“These doctors are dealing with life and death situations every minute and a mistake can cost a life. In such a scenario, anxiety naturally gets the better of you,” says Dr Harsh Kumar, president, Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) at
AIIMS. With as many as 7,000 patients visiting the hospital’s out patients’ department (OPD) each day, most doctors usually have more pressure than they can handle.
“The doctor-patient ratio here is roughly 1:60 and you can imagine the kind of pressure we work under. The duty hours become erratic for us and we have to do multiple shifts simply because there are not enough doctors here. In the AIIMS trauma centre, for example, the sanctioned strength of doctors is 15, but it hardly has any doctor, so the doctors from the neurosurgery department have to put in extra hours without regular leaves,” said a resident doctor on the condition of anonymity.
It is the same story everywhere. “The rush of patients, especially at the government hospitals, is immense and we hardly get any time for ourselves. Things are more difficult for outstation doctors who don’t have a support system to fall back on,” says Dr Kuldeep Kumar, president, RDA at LNJP Hospital and Maulana Azaad Medical College.
Add to this competitiveness between doctors and you have the perfect recipe for stress. “All resident doctors here are high achievers and try to outdo each other. So, the stress levels are bound to shoot up, and not everyone can take it,” adds an AIIMS faculty member.
Now the AIIMS has come up with a unique stress-busting tool for its doctors who are buckling under the pressures of work. The hospital has plans for a 5-day basic Art of Living (AOL) Foundation course.
“The increasing number of stress-related problems on the
campus has prompted us to look for all possible coping mechanisms. The AOL course will help doctors get rid of stress through the calming influence of meditation,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, additional professor, department of psychiatry, AIIMS. The course will be conducted from August 5 to August 10.
The department of psychiatry at AIIMS has started evaluating all 500 students who join the institute every year. It found that about 3 per cent students show symptoms of clinical anxiety. The psychiatrists, depending upon the severity of the case, either counsel these students or prescribe medicines.
So far, the course has had few takers, with only about 20 per cent students signing up. “Most students seem to think the course is all about god, religion and spiritual stuff. We have to dispel this myth and tell them it is about making them aware of their existence through meditation,” says a doctor conducting the programme.
Dr Vinod Kocchupillai, former head of the Institute’s Rotary Cancer Hospital, will run the programme.