I’ve just discovered a new favorite TV show.
It’s suspenseful and entertaining, while making my life seem rather mundane by comparison.
Of course, I’m talking about the 1990s hit “Melrose Place.”
One of the main plotlines in the show followed the doctors who worked at Wilshire Memorial Hospital. From the beginning, it was clear that these doctors—Michael Mancini, Kimberly Shaw and Peter Burns—were so overworked and stressed out about their jobs that it screwed with their minds.
So here’s what happened: Affairs. Blackmail. Kickbacks. Prescription drug addiction. Attempted murder. And then there was one of my favorite conflicts, when Dr. Shaw stole another woman’s baby and tried to convince everyone—including herself—it was her own. (And I’m only on the third season.)
The show was so ahead of its time.
And here’s why: A new study shows doctors are “burning out” at an alarming rate. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, about half of doctors say they're suffering emotional exhaustion, depersonalization or a low sense of personal accomplishment. A third show signs of depression and 6 percent say they’ve considered suicide in the past year.
Not only does this alarming information mean doctors are at risk for personal problems, but for their patients as well, the findings suggest.
And while there’s no word on if the desire to steal other people’s babies is on the list of doctor burnout symptoms, this information is still extremely disconcerting for a number of reasons.
This particular study comes on the heels of other reports about how doctors are leaving the medical profession in droves. Researchers say the doctors most likely to suffer from burnout are primary care physicians, which is especially worrisome because the success of health reform is, in part, tied to the increasing role of primary care doctors.
You think you have trouble seeing your doctor now? Just wait a couple more years.
Burnout likelihood, researchers suggest, is (obviously) worsened because of the abundance of new patients under health reform. Which gives them one more reason to leave the medical profession—or maybe just have a breakdown.
Doctors—what’s left of them—can’t handle all the additional pressure and long hours. Of course, doctors aren’t alone in work pressure: About 30 percent of us other workers say we've had symptoms of burnout.
I’ll admit that having a lot on my plate at work has given me some burnout symptoms. But at least I’m not holding a scalpel.