Occupational injuries among doctors are more common than we realize

occupational injuries among doctors are commonSuccess in our careers can be defined by a number of criteria. Two of the most important qualifiers in my book include both financial and physical/mental health. After all, your pool of money serves you no good if you are not healthy enough to enjoy it. Interestingly, I came across an article published in the 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons that surveyed health of surgeons. One of the key findings was that 86.9% of respondents reported symptoms of physical discomfort! The group of oncologic surgeons surveyed stated that the bulk of the physical ailments come from cervical spine pain, musculoskeletal fatigue, and vertebral disc injuries.


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This is a frightening finding that is unfortunately true and common. After a long day at work, I come home with various aches and pains. As doctors, we all are subjected to repetitive tasks whether it is operating on patients, clicking through the electronic health records, or simply examining patients. We are all subjected to higher volumes of patients as reimbursement levels decline. I think the stress of our workplace contributes to the physical ailments we experience.


How to reduce the likelihood of injury

The best way to insure your health for the future is to prevent injury. I keep a handwritten list of reminders at my office to help me step back and reassess what I need to focus on, especially during a tough day:

  1. Don’t forget to breathe. This means that no matter how chaotic your workday is, make time for yourself. Take that extra 3-5 minutes to go to the restroom, eat your breakfast, and find sanity. The sky will not fall if you take care of yourself first. If you are ill, then you won’t be able to care for others.
  2. Meditate. Yoga and meditation exercises are great to clear your mind. Sometimes you need that extra 10 minutes in the evening to unwind, clear your mind, and reset. It doesn’t hurt to pause.
  3. Make time to stretch and exercise.  Repetitive task-related injuries are most common in the workplace. The best way to prevent these is to reduce the repetitiveness. Stretch. Strengthen your core.
  4. Improve your core strength. The stronger your central muscles are, the less likely you will become injured. Moreover, the stronger you are, the faster you will likely recover from injury.
  5. Find a balance between work and relaxation. If you are a surgeon, limit the number of surgeries that you perform in a reasonable manner. If you are employed by a large corporation, make sure that you have the appropriate negotiation strategy to justify your worth. If you are self-employed, ask yourself how much money is worth it to you. Is it worth risking your well-being to perform an extra few appendectomies? Don’t be so sure.

What other strategies do you employ to maintain your mental and physical health?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

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