Dr. Tejal B. Lathia

Stress is all-pervasive in medicine. Just this morning I met an eminent doctor. Her daughter is pursuing MD in Medicine at a medical college in Maharashtra. The toxic work environment in the department has this young girl and her mother in despair. Two young resident doctors have already quit the department though this attracts a penalty of 75 lakhs. A small price to pay according to one of the fathers who says – “Money is not above my child’s life”.

Of course, this is a privilege available to few parents.

This blog was to be about how the young residents can manage their stress. But to be honest I have no answers. I have been through my own particular brand of hell.

In my senior residency, I was pregnant. Unfortunately, around this time there was a new mandatory posting to a peripheral hospital in the suburbs of Mumbai. My commute already involved changing 2 auto-rickshaw’s, 2 taxis and 4 trains every single day. This posting meant 2 auto-rickshaw’s, 2 taxis and 6 trains once a week.

Tired, nauseous, vomiting in waste baskets on railway stations between trains – it was probably the most difficult time of my life.

I could have been given some leeway in these duties. I could possibly have been shown a little compassion, but some powers ensured that I received no respite from this grinding schedule.

How did I get through them? The old-fashioned way – gritting my teeth, buckling down and holding on for dear life.  My only thought was that I would not let the system force me into leaving. I would not give in. I would leave when I wanted to.

I don’t know where I got the resilience from. I don’t know what survival instinct kicked in. My husband was doing his own residency at the time and had enough on his plate.

But after this phase was over, I realized I had a very important choice to make.

I could let this toxic environment continue through me, using my power to frustrate others who I had power over.

Or I would never ever subject anyone else to the kind of stress I went through. I would try to deal with my colleagues and juniors with compassion, something that had not been shown to me.

And this is the way the vicious circle of toxicity can be broken. If each fresh graduate decides they will not do what was done unto them, then finally the poison will leak away.

Don’t do what was done to you in First MBBS – ragging.

Don’t do what was done to you in internship – treated as a servant.

Don’t do what was done to you in JR ship – be the scapegoat for all wrongs. Don’t do what was done to you as a SR – write papers and give the first authorship to the professor.

We enter this profession with dreams of “helping” people but somewhere along the way the empathy and compassion is leached out of you – leaving you a shell of the person you once were. Let’s bring back these essential qualities in medicine.

Images – Google Images

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