Our Program for Psychiatrist Well-being and Support
The Program for Psychiatrist Wellbeing and Support aims to address stressful circumstances that psychiatrists may encounter.
These circumstances may range from the tediously mundane to the overwhelmingly catastrophic. These circumstances may be personal or professional. Some may concern psychiatrists especially, others may concern all physicians, and still others address in their broadest reach the stresses inherent in the human condition.
What we offer is no substitution for direct person-to-person assistance that one can find only from clinical work in one’s personal therapy, from legal or other professional assistance, and from the wisdom of friends, family and religious councilors.
The stressors of advancing age and the question of retirement from professional activity deserve consideration. In the past, retirement was not a consideration. People worked until illness, impairment or death forced cessation of productive labor. It was not until the late 19th century that retirement benefits and pensions became increasingly commonplace. With improved medical therapies and longer life spans, retirement was increasingly regarded as a normal stage of late life.
It is estimated that there is a 1 in 5 lifetime chance that a psychiatrist will be stalked. The estimated prevalence for the general population is far less, about 1 in 20.
Physical illness that is life-threatening is a catastrophic impact on all the dimensions of life. How do we manage such news? Does our experience as psychiatrists offer some insight or prepare us for such a circumstance?
With the advent of modern medicine, loss of a child has taken on a meaning far different from the uncertainty that plagued parents in eons past: would their child survive? The assumption that our children, once born, will live may not be as secure as we would like.
First described in 1974, burnout describes the consequences of dissatisfaction in one’s work life. These consequences may include low mood, irritability, exhaustion, loss of occupational purpose, and diminished creativity. The stress created by burnout is insidious. Generally, it arises so gradually that its corrosive effects are unnoticed.
The stresses of medical school and psychiatric residency are numerous. Unlike medical school, residency –regardless of specialty — entails progressive assumption of responsibilities and integration into the profession. What are the stresses that residents, particularly psychiatric residents, encounter? And how are these stresses addressed?
The stresses created by malpractice litigation are very likely to affront the identity of psychiatrists as it does for all physicians, challenging their ethics, clinical competence, and compassionate regard for patients. These challenges often dwarf in concern the work entailed in the preparation required to manage the lawsuit.
For the psychodynamic psychiatrist who is accustomed to working with individual patients at a high frequency, the impact of a patient’s death may be considerable. Inasmuch as treatment is often based on intimate professional relationship, the death of a patient may create a stressful period of bereavement.
How do we manage the experience of dying? The inevitability of death and the travails as it approaches is the topic of endless concern in all the arts. Regardless, for the individual facing death it is unique and new. Though we each die, some quite suddenly, those who die in the last stages of chronic illness may endure the experience as a slow progression.