Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sick doctors returning to work struggle with feelings of shame and failure, researchers find

Date:
October 16, 2012
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
Doctors who have been on long term sick leave find it hard to return to work because they are overwhelmed with feelings of shame and failure, and fear the disapproval of colleagues, new research finds.

Doctors who have been on long term sick leave find it hard to return to work because they are overwhelmed with feelings of shame and failure, and fear the disapproval of colleagues, finds research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

The authors call for cultural change, starting in medical school, to allow doctors to recognise their own vulnerabilities and cope better with both their own and their colleagues' ill health.

The authors carried out semi-structured interviews with 19 doctors, all of whom had been on sick leave for six months or more within the past year. Their ages ranged from 27 to 67, with the average age 46.

All but one doctor had a mental health or addiction problem, which included depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence. Seven also had physical health problems.

Fourteen of the doctors had come to the attention of the doctors' professional regulator, the General Medical Council.

The main themes to emerge during the interviews, which lasted between 1 and 3 hours, were professional identity; relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues; and the way in which they perceived themselves.

Illness had taken many of the interviewees by surprise and had shattered their professional identity.

One doctor said that without this, he realised "there wasn't much left of me." Another described it as having "everything taken from you."

Several doctors described good levels of support from friends and family, but many reported the opposite, and felt that they had become "a nuisance," or "an outsider in my own family," or that they were no longer highly thought of.

Some said they deliberately hid their illness (and its treatment) from their families because they feared that coming clean would have a detrimental impact on their personal relationships.

Some doctors said that they did feel supported by work colleagues, but not especially by other doctors.

One commented: "We're meant to be caring people, but we don't seem to care about each other at all, in my experience."

Interviewees said that they felt "judged," and perceived as "weak," and that others considered they were no longer fit to be a doctor because they had become ill.

They frequently described feelings of emptiness, guilt, shame and failure, and blamed themselves for what had happened.

When they experienced difficulties, once back at work, their confidence plummeted, which further worsened their self esteem and made work even harder to cope with, they said.

The authors point out that doctors' rates of mental ill health, drug and alcohol misuse and suicide are at least as high as those of the general population, but the prevailing culture in medicine is that they are "invincible."

This must change, say the authors. "Aspects of personal and colleague health, especially mental health, should be part of the curriculum for all medical students," they write.

And they conclude that:"Doctors must learn to provide themselves and their colleagues with the same level of excellent care that they provide for their patients."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Henderson, S. K. Brooks, L. del Busso, T. Chalder, S. B. Harvey, M. Hotopf, I. Madan, S. Hatch. Shame! Self-stigmatisation as an obstacle to sick doctors returning to work: a qualitative study. BMJ Open, 2012; 2 (5): e001776 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001776

Cite This Page:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Sick doctors returning to work struggle with feelings of shame and failure, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015193636.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2012, October 16). Sick doctors returning to work struggle with feelings of shame and failure, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015193636.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Sick doctors returning to work struggle with feelings of shame and failure, researchers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015193636.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins