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The Burnout in Medical School

So far in this exploration of doctor/patient relationships, I have only looked at the current issues or problems. What I have yet to explore is how these relationships develop. The only place I can think of where future doctors learn to handle their patients is in medical school.

In an opinion piece by Dr. Pauline Chen in the NY Times, she recounts the multiple issues a med student is dealing with. She says how difficult it was to balance the pressure to succeed, the enormous debt, the sleep deprivation, the hazing from more experienced doctors and the fact that patients continued to suffer despite her efforts.

The article continues with the results of a 2006 study by Dr. Liselotte Dyrbyre and her colleagues at the Mayo Clinic that “nearly half of the 545 medical students they surveyed suffered from burnout, which they defined as professional distress in three domains: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low sense of personal accomplishment�. After widening their scope, they found similar results from medical students across the country.

This burnout and exhaustion must have some effect on how these newly graduated doctors deal with their patients. Well in another study, the Mayo researchers found that in the beginning medical students level of empathy was similar to non medical peers. However as burnout increased, the empathy levels dropped.

These students obviously continue in a medical field because they want to help people, but that is not going to happen if we continue to overwork their minds and bodies thus building a barrier to positive doctor/patient relationships.

This article can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/health/chen10-30.html?_r=1&ref=health&oref=slogin