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Dear Doctor: Are You Stressed Out?

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Dr. Emecheta C., Aug 16, 2019.

  1. Dr. Emecheta C.

    Dr. Emecheta C. Young Member

    Aug 15, 2019
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    Hello Doctors,

    Stress is a part of the lives of people of all ages. It is indeed needed to achieve goals, and has been shown to have proven cognitive benefits. Too much of it could be harmful however.

    Identifying symptoms of stress early enough allows you to intervene before the pressure becomes too high.
    By learning how to manage stress, it stays at a level where its effects are not destabilising.

    Excessive pressure on the body disrupts its recovery system and can lead to fatigue and sometimes, burn out.

    Burnout can be defined as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion related to work situations.

    According to the WHO, it is characterized by "a feeling of intense fatigue, loss of control and inability to achieve concrete results at work".

    Stress management for the caregiver is peculiar. This is because when the doctor is sick, there is often a tendency to underestimate his symptoms, and coupled with the demands on him by work, he often doesn't have the time to properly evaluate them and take action, and when he does, may not allow enough time for recovery. Sometimes even while dealing with his own ailments, he has to show up for his patients who most of the time don't really perceive him as a fellow human who can equally get sick and so continue to have high expectations of him.

    This when prolonged, would gradually lead to stress, fatigue and sometimes, burn-out syndrome.

    It is important to know when you're beginning to get stressed out.

    What are the signs of stress?

    Some of the signs of stress include:
    • Irritability, hyperactivity and impatience.
    • Lack of concentration, confusion or disorganisation at home or work.
    • Reduced productiveness, impaired performance, reduced problem-solving abilities.
    • Feeling overwhelmed and not in control.
    • Frequent personal conflicts between colleagues and other staff.
    • Increased rate of work accidents.
    When burn out sets in, it is characterised by a tripod of symptoms:

    Emotional exhaustion

    This is the first symptom characterised by fits of anger and nervousness, cognitive difficulties and a distancing from the patient.

    Dehumanization of the doctor-patient relationship

    This is the core of the syndrome.

    The doctor now approaches the patient with a profound lack of enthusiasm. He carries out his tasks in a very routine and lacklustre manner.

    Feeling of professional failure

    The doctor begins to doubt his abilities and the effectiveness of his work.

    He begins to devalue himself and at this point, may slip into a state of depression.

    Several studies have shown that 50% of physicians would be at the first stage of emotional exhaustion while 16% would experience dehumanization in the relationship with their patients.

    Fewer would experience a sense of professional failure.

    The statistics show, fortunately, that only 2% of the medical population would have complete burnout syndrome, with all three symptoms.

    It is important that doctors and other caregivers understand and accept that they too are humans and as such, can be stressed out.

    With this comes the need for greater advocacy for healthier work schedules that would ensure maximum work efficiency without the associated fatigue and burn out of the healthcare providers.

    This would be beneficial for all in the long run.


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    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2021

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