Couple of years back I came up with my first book, 'Chronicles of a Gynaecologist'. A woman-centric book, it focused on two sections of the society I fought passionately for - women and doctors. I wanted people to understand their struggle. I wanted to bare the harsh realities that breathe behind the closed sanitized walls of a hospital. The book received critical acclaim but my mission was far from over.
While most professions deal with machines and technology, medicine is the only profession that deals with human beings. The human body is not a computer and does not follow set rules. It still abounds with mystery, and though we have been successful in deciphering it to an extent, we are far from decoding all the secrets of this masterpiece. Medicine remains a tough and demanding profession, fraught with litigations. In today's world where women safety is a priority, doctors were leaving their houses at the most ungodly hours, not caring for the rain or fog and still reach the hospital in time to attend to patients. Many hospitals didn't provide ambulance services and sometimes there wasn't enough time to wait for it. Unaware, people never realise the toll it took on them and their family. There was money in the profession, but it came at a cost. Most doctors paid it with their time. No wonder many young doctors were now opting for safer pastures as in migrating abroad, which gave them a better quality of life.
Moreover, not all patients came with a monetary benefit. This was a community that bore the brunt of all the ambitious plans of governments like the Ayushman Bharat, government panels like CGHS or the free services provided to the EWS category. To work unpaid or at a pathetic fee was a compulsion yet an exploitation of a highly qualified profession that went unnoticed. The nobility of the profession often violated their right to earn with dignity.
The untold story
It is especially difficult for women who sometimes buckled under both societal pressures and professional burden. Most hospitals are wary of taking doctors who are pregnant. Doctors themselves got loaded with guilt for neglecting their families especially children. It was not unusual to see women taking a sabbatical after child birth and their careers often lagged behind their more successful male counterparts.
Contrary to popular belief, it was more practical for one of the spouses to be a non-medical person or have supportive parents at home who understood the weird routine of doctors. Doctors also need to be vigilant about not foregoing their meals. A good habit is to always carry a tiffin. They also need to take out time to exercise and beat stress. A 'my' time where you can indulge yourself with music, yoga or meditation always works wonders. It's very important for you to take a break, once in a while to rejuvenate yourself.
Success is very consuming but it's better to restrict work according to your own circumstances. Group practice and working in one hospital only is to an extent more relaxing than being all over and doing everything. After all your health is your responsibility. Our healers need to be happy and healthy too.
Fighting the odds
Lately, there has been an unprecedented rise of violence against doctors.
The doctor-patient relationship was on a steep downfall, leading to a deficit in respect and trust. While Indian doctors were winning accolades worldwide for their exemplary work, they have been facing a lot of hostility at home. Rising commercialization with entry of the corporate sector and the struggle to establish one's own practice with hardly any support from the government often led to frustration and disillusionment.
Last year in Kolkata, there was a face-off between the junior doctors and the chief minister. An intern on duty was grievously attacked by the angry attendants of a patient. The protests spilled onto the streets and was a glaring example of the widening rift between doctors and public also showed how vulnerable doctors were, both from the onslaught from the public as well as an apathetic government.
According to a study by the Indian Medical Association, over 75% of doctors have faced violence at work. A lady doctor in Tuticorin was killed by the husband of a pregnant woman who was admitted in a serious condition. She was referred to another hospital but died before she could be shifted. The husband entered the consultation chamber of the lady doctor with three accomplices and attacked her with a sword. In 2014, in Mansa district of Punjab, a doctor's clinic was burnt down following the death of a boy who was referred to a tertiary hospital but died.
One of the factors that contribute to this poor image of doctors is the sensationalization of every news item, often ignoring the crucial details that exonerate a doctor in an incident of alleged medical negligence. Suspicious, non-trusting patients put doctors on guard. And defensive, fearful doctors are not in the best interests of a country that still suffers from the deficit of doctors. It was not easy to be put on a pedestal next to God. One unintended adverse outcome, you were brought crashing down! There was an immediate need to improve this relationship. One way of doing it is to increase awareness about the journey of medical students, which in turn, can increase empathy towards the medical fraternity. The public needs to be made aware of how medical students survive in redundant infrastructure, poor resources, an environment of unreasonable expectations from society, yet stay strong and compassionate.