Be prepared for the stress!

High prevalence of depression in medical residents: the sad reality of medical training
10.1136/ebmed-2016-110381 Evidence Based Medicine, June 2016

Shirley Schipper

Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Correspondence to: Dr Shirley Schipper, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, 205 College Plaza, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2R7; Shirley.schipper@ ualberta.ca

chen_480This systematic review and meta-analysis should raise concerns about depression among healthcare professionals. Many assume that healthcare professionals should be well aware of the symptoms, however, that is far from the truth. Denial of this issue traverses the different seniority levels within the healthcare profession. 

Junior medical officers entering the workforce may find that the situation can be very different from the time they were medical students and working in a protective university hospital environment.

They are suddenly at the bottom of the pecking order and are expected to work longer hours. At the same time, they may still be studying for post graduate exams and perhaps having to deal with family issues. Many will also shoulder a financial burden, from student to housing loans. Being unprepared for this scenario, can be a backdrop of a spiral into depression.

Medicine is a stressful profession. Being mentally prepared for this very early on is pivotal to survival in a highly stressful environment. It is clearly wishful thinking to make medicine pleasant and stress free. So preparing potential medical students is important and a necessary step before acceptance into medical training.

There must also be regular meet ups with superiors in a non confrontational and relaxed manner. This can help the team identify potential symptoms of depression and thus seek early assistance. It is never easy as sleep deprivation and low mood can be part of the process that most medical students and healthcare professionals go through on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, medicine is not for any Tom, Dick and Harry. You will need character, resilience and a persevering spirit to survive in this environment. I doubt the situation will get any more pleasant as patients with a multitude of issues stream in continuously through those doors.