Physician Thriving: Let’s Look Out for Each Other

By Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP

September 17th was the third annual National Physician Suicide Prevention Day. On this day, I reflected on the colleagues I have lost over the years to suicide, one at nearly every stage of my training and practice in medicine. One is too many, more than one is tragic, and an estimated 400 annually in the US is simply unacceptable. If you or someone you know, work with, or love is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A simple human connection and expression of awareness and support may be the catalyst for change. If you don’t know what to say, simply connect for a coffee or schedule a brief check in because it has been a while since you talked. Keep it simple, straightforward. Or you might say “I noticed you’ve been more tired recently” (or grumpy, or overworked, or stressed) or “I am concerned and wanted to see how you are doing.” The worst that can happen is that they don’t engage, or wave you off, or gloss over their distress, but the act of reaching out is important. Do not give up on a colleague in distress. The flip side of this is the colleague who seems fine on the surface, but who is in real distress underneath. If this is you, you must make a safety plan immediately. Reach out to your resource people today, or explore the resources available to you, today. You are not alone, you are important, part of an extraordinary community of healers, and a precious human life. Write out a safety plan and follow it. What do you need to do right now to keep yourself safe? Start there and do it. Let us look out for each other and be the ones that shine a light into these dark places and challenge the outdated culture of medicine by stepping up when called to be the change that is needed.

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Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP, is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine, and integrative medicine. She writes and speaks nationally on physician wellbeing, resiliency, and physician wellness. She is a member of the International Coach Federation, certified physician coach and author of two books: Mind-Body Medicine in Clinical Practice and Integrative Pediatrics: Art, Science, and Clinical Application. She practices pediatric emergency medicine and is host of the popular podcast Physician Thriving. 

Email: mcclaffertyh@gmail.com      Web: www.physicianthriving.org      Twitter: @drmcclafferty

 

If you missed a previous “Physician Thriving” column, click here to view the archive.

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