As healthcare professionals, we frequently prioritize guiding our patients on well-being, often neglecting our own health. This has implications for both personal health and patients' adherence to advice. Shockingly, doctors have a life expectancy 10 years less than the general public, highlighting the urgent need for serious attention to personal health. Prioritizing our well-being not only impacts our longevity but also strengthens our ability to inspire patients. It's time for doctors to acknowledge this reality and commit to a more proactive approach to personal health, setting an example for the community we serve.
To address this issue effectively, it is crucial that we practice what we preach. By personally adhering to the same health guidelines we recommend to our patients, we establish a stronger connection, increasing the likelihood that they will heed our counsel. This approach not only ensures our well-being but also enhances the effectiveness of our medical recommendations.
Doctors are susceptible to burnout due to compelling and extended work hours, exceeding 70 hours a week. This can impact their sleep patterns, leading to various mental health problems such as depression. To overcome these challenges, doctors should prioritize creating a well-organized medical practice, ensuring they get a minimum of 8 hours of undisturbed sleep. This proactive approach can help reduce the development of many non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Careful planning of work schedules can contribute to maintaining good health. With the increasing number of doctors in India, setting up group practices and distributing responsibilities and schedules can positively impact mental health and allow for adequate time dedicated to personal well-being.
For established practitioners, consider incorporating junior colleagues into your setup and expanding your practice into chains. This can help create a network, allowing for a more systematic approach to managing your workload and, consequently, providing time for personal health. Building such systems is akin to addressing challenges collectively rather than handling them in isolation.
Daily Exercise for Doctors:
To stress the importance of daily exercise to doctors may seem redundant, as they are well aware of its significance. However, it's noteworthy that less than 30% of doctors engage in daily exercise. Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are prevalent among doctors, given the sedentary nature of our profession coupled with the inherent stress.
Daily exercise is imperative, and activities such as swimming, brisk walking, or using a treadmill can make a significant impact. Some doctors express concerns about treadmills potentially damaging knees, but such issues typically arise after the development of osteoarthritis. Building strong leg muscles may even prevent the development of osteoarthritis itself.
For those considering a treadmill, it's essential to be cautious. Avoid distractions like listening to podcasts or music, as this may lead to injuries. Consulting with an orthopedic specialist before starting such exercises is advisable to make informed decisions.
Incorporating yoga and meditation into your daily routine can offer additional benefits, making your body more flexible and providing spiritual advantages.
If you already have an NCD and are on medication, take medications regularly. Don't depend on your spouse or kids to remind you about medications, a practice we also advise our patients. Self-reliant medication intake is good for everyone, including yourself at home. Furthermore, it is crucial not to self-treat; seek help from an endocrinologist or cardiologist. They can create an unbiased treatment plan and ensure you go for regular checkups. Share blood reports and examination findings with your colleague for proper guidance.
Avoid Outside Food:
It is common for doctors to indulge in frequent tea and coffee sessions supplemented with samosas and other snacks during work hours, especially following surgeries. This practice should be limited or, at best, avoided, as it not only adds up to calorie intake but also exposes you to potential harmful chemicals present in canteen food.
Wearing Protective Gear:
Doctors are exposed to harmful agents in medical practice, including HIV, Hepatitis B, HCV, and, most recently, COVID. It is essential to protect oneself by wearing appropriate protective gear when dealing with such exposures. Take vaccinations against hepatitis B and ensure you don't miss your booster doses.
For those like me, cardiologists, radiologists, or radiotherapists exposed to radiation, don't underestimate the importance of wearing protective gear. Regularly check the validity of your protective gowns and replace them when worn out.
Doctors as Patients:
We, doctors, are also human and, like anyone, may fall sick. Treating oneself as a patient poses unique challenges, especially when there are multiple treatment options or when pre-existing biases influence decision-making. While many doctor-turned-patients heed the advice of treating doctors, challenges may arise. Handling such patients requires careful consideration, especially when biases from another specialty impact treatment decisions.
In conclusion, the well-being of healthcare professionals, particularly doctors, is of paramount importance. While dedicating ourselves to the care and guidance of our patients, it is imperative that we prioritize our own physical and mental health. By adhering to the health guidelines we advocate to our patients, engaging in regular exercise, incorporating practices like yoga and meditation, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle, we not only safeguard our own health but also reinforce the credibility of our medical recommendations.
The challenges faced by doctors, including long working hours, exposure to harmful agents, and the inherent stress of the profession, necessitate a proactive approach to self-care. Establishing well-organized medical practices, involving junior colleagues in responsibilities, and creating support networks can contribute to a more sustainable and fulfilling professional life.
Furthermore, addressing specific concerns such as regular medication intake, avoiding outside food, and wearing appropriate protective gear becomes crucial in maintaining health, especially when faced with occupational hazards.
As doctors, we must recognize our vulnerability as patients and approach our own health with the same diligence and commitment we provide to those under our care. By doing so, we not only set an example for our patients but also contribute to a healthier and more resilient healthcare community.
In essence, a holistic approach to healthcare encompasses not only the well-being of our patients but also our own, fostering a symbiotic relationship that ultimately benefits the entire medical fraternity and, by extension, the broader community.