Dear Female Doc: I’m concerned about a career in medicine

Dear Female Doc,
I am a high school student interested in pursuing a career in medicine. When researching the profession, I have seen a lot of articles about the huge number of depressed and suicidal doctors, which has worried me a little bit. Do you think that these posts are over exaggerating, or are there really a ton of depressed doctors? If so, do you have any tips to avoid depression? Thank you!
Sincerely,
Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Your query is very insightful.  It already tells me that you’re going to be well prepared for whatever comes at you in any career you pick.  The best way to avoid the pitfalls of burnout and suicide in the medical field is to be aware and prepared with a wellness plan. 

Unfortunately, these posts are correct and are not an exaggeration. Statistics show burnout out rates vary by specialty, with the highest burnout rates in critical care medicine which happens to be my specialty. Once you’re in medicine, picking a specialty that’s right for you is important. I’m very happy with my choice and wouldn’t change a thing. I love what I do. 

graph showing burnout rates by medical subspecialty with critical care at the highest with 55% and mental health the lowest at 40%

Also, suicide rates for female physicians are 2.27 higher than the general population. A lot of this is reflective of a society that places many domestic responsibilities on women, despite the increasing number of women entering high impact careers. This is not just a problem that men need to correct. We need workplaces that allow men to spend more time at home. Men want to be caring husbands and fathers just as much as women want to be good wives and mothers!

My tips to avoid depression are to engage in lots of self-care and mindful behaviors.  Basically, do things you like and are fun. Here’s a previous blog post on the 5 ways I overcame my own burnout that might help give you some perspective. 

But the good news is that younger physicians and students like yourself are starting to demand that the system accommodate and address burnout and suicide. I truly believe that millennials will fix the healthcare system

Overall, a career in medicine is very demanding but also very rewarding. If you want to be a physician, you have to be prepared to give it your all and make sacrifices for many years. If you can’t picture being anything but a doctor then I say you pursue it. You can’t go into this field for the money or the status of being a doctor, because all of those perks have faded. You’re young so you have time to explore all your options. There are lots of links to great resources throughout this article that I hope you’ll explore.

I hope this helps address your concerns! Please keep me updated on your career progress!

Warmly,

The Female Doc