Margaret Salmon MD is a good friend of mine and an emergency physician who treats and saves lives on a daily basis. I have often wondered about what life is really like for doctors behind the medical coat that they wear, how they feel when they get home, what challenges and fears they have. Margaret has occasionally touched upon things when we have been chatting but she has always played her cards pretty close to her chest. I wanted to know more so that we could all see the human side of these amazing men and women, and Margaret was kind enough to share with me some experiences of hers and some of her colleagues.
Dealing With Loss
We often like to think that our doctors treat their patients in the same way that a mechanic would treat a car, as a sum of parts which need to be fixed. Whilst it is true that doctors are able to shut off emotions when they are dealing with patients, this is not to say that they don’t feel something. When it comes to death it is part of their job but there are some cases which can emotionally destroy many doctors, especially when there are children involved or a case which particularly hits close to home.
Something which I had no idea about was the amount of work which doctors must still do once they get home. Doctors must be students throughout their careers as there are always new things to learn, new methods to learn about, new treatments which they have to update themselves on in order to stay ahead of the game and be at their best. As if doctors don’t work long enough hours already, they then have to put even more time in when they get home.
Given the number of hours which doctors work, and the crazy schedule which sees them called in at all hours, they very often miss special events and engagements. Margaret told me about doctors who had to cancel their honeymoon, miss best man duties for a friend and miss out on special birthday parties and even funerals as a result of their job. Doctors struggle to plan anything because of the way that they work, something which very few of us are aware of.
Something which many people don’t know is the massively high divorce rates which doctors have. There are multiple factors which contribute to this, the lack of time which doctors have to spend at home, the stress levels and the emotions which they go through, not to mention again the number of events and special moments which they have to miss out on as a result of their jobs. This is something which affects a great many doctors and it is a sad by-product of the great work which they do.
As you can see, these men and women may do incredible jobs but it is often to the detriment of their own personal happiness.