Recently, a 26-year-old doctor named Dr Sarvanan Ganeshan, from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) New Delhi, was found dead in his apartment. This is not the first suicide that has been reported from within the prestigious department.
These cases have brought into limelight the multiple grievances that doctors face. While for some this maybe the situation only through their residency. But for others this extends to their permanent practice as well.
We spoke to a few doctors and listed below are some of their major concerns:
1. Work timings
It is very common for residents and doctors to pull a 36-hour or 24-hour shift. While in the west the doctors are given a day off after such a shift, in India due to shortage of staff they mostly return the next day to work. “Time management is one area where a lot of doctors suffer. It can be self-imposed or through the institution due to staff shortage. Whatever the case, it is a fact that most doctors suffer from shortage of time,” says Dr Dhawan.
Doctors in India are expected to complete paperwork that is equivalent of western standards. However, in the west the doctor to patient ratio is about 1:10 maximum. In India, the approximate average is 1:25. These documentations are the only protection the doctors have in case something goes wrong during a treatment. Therefore, the simple thought of “save yourself before you save others” causes doctors to insist on paperwork before they can touch a patient.
3. Lack of faith
“These days patients and their loved ones look at doctors with a skeptical attitude. This either causes the doctor to spend more time and energy in gaining their trust or become curt and defensive. Both are unhealthy to patient doctor relation,” says Dr. Sanjay Dhawan, director and HOD - Ophthalmology Department, Max Healthcare, Delhi and NCR.
“I remember when I was doing my masters, I got leptospirosis infection. My colleague came down with tuberculosis. All this happened because we worked on dead bodies in unsanitary conditions. But at that time getting our degrees was important hence we had to do it,” says Dr Monica Jacob, cosmetologist, Bodyz Wellness, Mumbai.
5. Legal hassles
“Major stress today is not a complicated or challenging clinical case but the risk of being sued or dragged to court over a trivial error or even known side effects,” says Dr Jacob Thomas, cardiologist and diabetes specialist, JM Diagnostics, Mumbai.
Apparently, if a rare side effect of a medicine occurs (and there is no way to predict this), many a times in India the relatives start to become aggressive and sometimes even end up beating the doctors. Some people come with mobs and vandalise property.
“Most times the law enforcement is not in favour of doctors,” adds Dr Thomas.
6. Self care
Doctors tend to forget to take care of themselves. Between patient calls and documentation, taking time out for exercise or even to listen to music does not come naturally for them. This adds to the stress levels.
Suggestions to doctors:
1. Cap the amount of work you take on voluntarily.
2. Take short and multiple vacations or make sure you take some time out for relaxation with music or other hobbies.
3. Be reasonably aware of medico-legal laws.
4. Make use of technology for proper data management.
5. If you are about to start your own clinic do it with a colleague to divide work pressure.
6. Do not compromise on seven to eight hours of sleep.
- With inputs from Dr. Meghna Gupta, cosmetic dermatologist and director, Delhi Skin Centre, South Delhi.