Be Nice to Your Doctor, Especially If She Is a Woman.
I listened to an enlightening lecture last week and was inspired to write this post. Did you know that the average male physician is 1.41 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person? Did you know that the average female physician is 2.14 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person?  This huge discrepancy in the mental health of female physicians is largely due to demands from home life as a mom, and work life. We are constantly chasing that elusive work-life balance. And as natural overachievers, we strive to give 100% to each aspect and that can get exhausting, quickly. This stress is very pronounced in residency. It is a grueling process. One that sometimes doesn’t seem to factor in that you are only human. A lot of times you feel inept or defective because you need time off to have a baby, to nurse a sick child, to be a mother. Residency is a process that was designed with a single male, or a married male with a stay at home partner in mind. But the face of medicine is changing and social norms are also changing. More women are going into medicine. Currently, the majority of medical students are women. In today’s society, a significant number of families do not have the great resource of a stay at home parent. Many doctors are married to a working spouse, which makes sharing childcare responsibilities a bigger part of today’s physician’s life, male or female. I trust that with more women in medicine and a new generation of young thinkers in the process, improvement will happen. But until that day comes, it is a struggle. Although very pronounced in the field of medicine, this problem of working in a situation designed for men still happens in many different fields. We are lucky to live in an era that is beginning to talk and act on change. We can continue to do our part to unstigmatize the working mom by not being apologetic when you ask for maternity leave, holding your head up high when you need to take a pumping break, talking about your kids and the amazing fact that you are a mom and doing a great job as a career woman. Get active in committees from which you can help enact policies that make your workplace friendlier to families.
1. Schemhammer, E. S, & Colditz, G. A. (2004) Suicide Rates Among Physicians; A Quantitative and Gender Assessment (Meta-Analysis) American Journal of Psychiatry AJP, 161(12), 2295-2302