Why Female Doctors Commit Suicide Twice As Much As Other Women

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downloadBy: Krystle Crossman

When you go to the doctor’s office, you probably don’t think about how tough their jobs really are. You wouldn’t think about the toll that the job is taking on their health and wellbeing. And if they quit practicing clinical medicine, you may wonder why someone would go through all that time and money for schooling when they are just going to up and leave. One woman tells her story about doing just that and the reason that she came to the tough decision.

Dr. Diane Shannon was a clinical physician. She was an internist who practiced in different outpatient clinics throughout Boston. One day she went to a conference where she heard a statistic that made her think about her life and where it was going. The statistic was that female physicians were twice as likely to commit suicide than the general female population. She thought about her life and decided that it was time to be done with clinical medicine.

As she looked upon her life she realized that her overall health was suffering. She couldn’t go for a relaxing run because the whole time she was worried that she may have ordered the wrong test, or prescribed the wrong medicine, or that a glitch in the system would cause an oversight in a test result. She didn’t sleep normally and was startled easily by little things. When she came to the decision to leave, she didn’t take it lightly. She did it because she knew that she wasn’t going to be able to give her patients the care that they needed or deserved.

Many physicians experience burnout during their career due to four different factors:

– Chaos
– Pressure of time
– Degree of control with work
– Alignment issues between physicians and administration

There are different ways that hospitals and clinics can help their doctors from burning out. The first thing that Dr. Shannon says that they need to do is connect with the doctors on a personal level and get a deeper sense of what they go through day by day.

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2 Comments

  1. Suicide is more common among physicians in general. I know of four physicians who committed suicide. Three were men and one was a female. The pressures placed on physicians can become difficult to handle. You have to see more patients to make your overhead. The threat of being sued is real. Add all of this up and you have a depressed burned out physician. This is not a trivial issue. Imagine coming to the ER and being seen by a depressed physician who hates his job. How much attention can he/she dedicate to your problem.

  2. Tamar Diana Wilson on

    I think many people, over their lifetimes, think of committing suicide now and then. We are all under stress, especially the homeless, for example. It is easier for doctors to commit suicide because they know and have access to, the drugs that permit it.

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