Many doctors enter medical school and residency programs brimming with self-confidence, having spent their previous lives in college and high school at the top of their class. Yet when they leave, their sense of self-worth is often shattered.

“Of those who reported a decrease in self-confidence, their experiences often led to chronic mental health issues, including PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” Dr Wible writes. To rectify such abusive situations, she makes the following recommendations in her article:

  • Stop institutional abuse (she urges medical students and residents to report it and stand up to it);
  • Seek mental healthcare (many doctors say they are depressed or anxious as a result of mistreatment; some are suicidal);
  • Build strong relationships (supportive relationships can help you through rough spots, Dr Wible advises);
  • Promote a culture of open communication and respect; and
  • Refuse to be a victim.

“It has been a hard journey,” a cardiothoracic surgeon agreed. “My medical school did nothing when I informed them of sexual harassment by a professor. I was told to take him out for a cup of coffee and let it go. One of the surgery professors discouraged me from pursuing surgery because he did not believe it was for women. Afterward, during job interviews, I was asked when I planned on becoming pregnant ‘because you are attractive, and I fully expect you to start a family.’ Or: ‘You are attractive. Are you sure you know what you are doing?'”

“This article hits the nail on the head,” a physician wrote. “I hope the medical community sits up and takes notice. Physicians are humans who feel, live, and breathe and must be healthy to keep our patients healthy. But many become emotionally crippled by medical school and residency. Nobody sits up and takes notice until someone becomes a victim of suicide, and even then, the blame is entirely placed on that individual. It is just so wrong.”

Not every doctor who experienced a drop in self-esteem went through a traumatic experience in training. “As we age, self-confidence may dwindle,” a pediatrician pointed out. “I find that I am looking things up more than I used to. Clinical knowledge has greatly grown, and the expectations of and demands from doctors have steeply risen. It’s hard to keep abreast of the latest thinking on many topics. Many things that we took for granted for years as being common practice are now being questioned. All this can rattle one’s confidence.”

“It’s unfortunate for those who enter medicine if they couldn’t handle it,” an emergency physician agreed. “It’s sad that PTSD, depression, suicide, broken marriages, and drug/alcohol abuse occur from these unavoidable pressures. It’s a shame if you feel that you wasted your 20s and early 30s buried under an avalanche of preparation and humiliation. But this is the course we set. It is the burden that we must bear. It is why becoming a physician is NOT a career.” “What a sad view of our profession”

This is not to discourage medical students, rather it reveals the reality of what takes place in the college both in Nigeria and abroad. Reading and practicing Medicine is a choice you make for yourself, just try not to be a so much a victim of its dark realities.


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Cynthia Isuekebhor