Physician, Know Yourself

Are you adding to your own stress?

Words that cause stressIn our day-to-day lives as student physicians, residents, fellows and fully licensed practicing physicians, several things can add up to give us a less than pleasant day. Demanding patients, unexpected emergencies, backups in the waiting room, medication changes, pharmacy changes, and my favorite thing to dislike, the electronic health record, overwhelm us and add to our feelings of being stressed. Often we feel as if we are simply driftwood tossed randomly in a sea of regulations and compliance stipulations. Maybe not. How much do we actually add to the feeling of being stressed and under pressure?

The NIH, as well as other medical organizations, reveal our biases when dealing with patients. Emergency room physicians endorse patient bias at a rate of 62%, orthopedic surgeons 50%, psychiatrists 48%, and family physicians and ob/gyns at 47%. At the other end of the spectrum we have pathologists at 10% and radiologists at 22%. Cardiologists ranked low also.

What triggers our bias? Patient emotional problems for 62% of us, followed by weight, intelligence, language difficulties and insurance coverage. Obviously, our propensity to be biased is not a positive factor for the patient. We think of ourselves as being rational decision-makers not influenced by extraneous data. Wrong. We are after all human.

Physician know thyself. Recognize what bias you may have and learn how to compensate for it or seek help learning how to deal with these unnecessary and unfortunate reactions. We can’t change the EHR requirements but we can change ourselves.

You will have a better day. After all, no one ever said being human was easy.

Samuel J. Garloff, DO
Co-Chairman, POMA Mental Health Task Force

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