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Medical Practice

Professional Hazards

The practice of medicine, like other professions, has inherent occupational hazards, such as becoming infected with a bacterium or virus, and the very real risk of being sued for malpractice. Physicians take precautions for such problems by being careful in their management techniques and treatment and securing adequate liability insurance coverage. In addition, there is a more subtle way in which physicians can be severely impaired. In the intense drive to achieve professional success, they may ignore their own families, fail to form abiding personal friendships, never develop hobbies or find the time for relaxation and introspection. As in other professions, the obsession with success can lead to one becoming a workaholic and, in all too many cases, to the abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Work-related problems may stem from the combination of long working hours and the pursuit of excellence, causing physicians to lose sight of their own personal needs. They may repress and deny the strains, stresses, fatigue, and disappointments that are inevitable with the practice of medicine.

Patients can make enormous demands on their physicians, while the physicians themselves sometimes come to believe that they are invincible. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that they have successfully surmounted a vigorous and lengthy training regimen, replete with intense challenges and often demeaning activities. Further strengthening the all-powerful feeling is the success of becoming part of an elite group where their egos are enlarged by the adulation of patients, subordinates, and even colleagues. Maintaining this status demands enormous dedication and at times calls for others to “slow down and take it easy.” Holding onto and even increasing one's monetary rewards can become a major driving force in professional life and being part of a “team” or medical group can increase the pressure for intensive activity.

After many years in active practice, physicians may find it difficult to retire; the respect and gratitude of patients can become an important element of their life. Retirement may therefore be delayed out of fear of boredom, the loss of personal satisfaction and financial rewards, or simply the fear of finding a new lifestyle. Physicians who continue to practice after their skills have begun to diminish risk making decisions that could be detrimental to themselves, their associates, and, most of all, their patients. However, with the changes in the practice of medicine today, more and more physicians are retiring at an early age rather than deal with the bureaucracy, mountains of paper work, and drop in income.

The changing climate in health care will have significant impact on the practice and rewards of the medical profession. It will challenge physicians to be even more alert to the potential dangers and require that they consider their own basic needs and periodically reevaluate the demands that they place on themselves and the toll that it takes.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsMedical Practice - Physician-patient Relationship, Clinical Skills, Diagnosing Disease, Patient Care, Assessing Treatment, Accountability