March 30th marks the International Doctors Day to celebrate the contribution of doctors from all medical fields to the health and well-being of people around the world. This was originally focused on marking contributors to improvement in the medical field, but in my opinion all doctors should be acknowledged for their dedication since their first years in medical school.
I say this from personal experience that dates back to September 1987 when I first set foot at the College of Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) full of dreams and ambitions yet the journey was far from being painted with happy colours.
Like any other profession, hard work is an important part of the deal yet while studying medicine the inner self of each doctor is touched by what they see and the people they meet. As people come to clinics and hospitals they don’t just bring their symptom,s but they also bring their fears, their hopes and sometimes denial that the young doctors observe and learn from and sometimes make them reflect on life and the whole concept of existence.
The sad part is that many doctors don’t get training on how to deal with their emotions and learn to look after their own well-being. I remember clearly the first patient I met when I started training in the hospital, it was a 12-year-old boy with problems in his heart, fluids would accumulate around his heart and he became breathless, the doctors would remove these fluids but more would be produced.
I remember feeling helpless when his condition got worse and was admitted to intensive care. I used to visit him daily and I cried when he died a few days later. I know I was not supposed to get emotionally attached to patients but I was not told whom to talk to about it so I kept quiet.
Studying medicine is very competitive and studying and setting for exams never stops even after graduating from medical school. These exams are important in ensuring that doctors are experienced so not to put people’s lives at risk but exams are also an important source of stress.
Doctors who don’t pass exams often experience self-doubt and a feeling of being a failure which would lead some of them to develop mental health problems.
Due to stigma and fear on the impact on their future many doctors chose not to seek professional help which leads to further worsening in their health and eventually some would leave the medical field.
At the start of Covid-19 pandemic everyone experienced stress and worries but healthcare professionals, including doctors developed most of the stress and burnout since they became among the frontline workers with little equipment, vaccines or guidelines.
Many doctors and nurses lost their lives while on the line of duty. Others experienced social isolation from their friends and loved ones for fear of spreading the infections while others had to work extra hours to cover for shortages in doctors who got infected with Covid.
In my opinion, World Doctors Day should be dedicated to appreciating doctors from all fields and all grades. Not all of us have to be superheroes.