March 30, 2023, is National Doctors’ Day in the United States.
It’s that one day when the leaders of our profession, at every level, take a moment and thank us for the work we’ve done. Nothing says “thank you for ensuring that I get a 4-6 figure bonus this year,” like a slice of cold pizza or donut. Currently, I work at a pretty great place – but at other sites, I remember feeling oh so grateful to get a pen or other trinket instead of a pay increase or bonus for all of the hours of uncompensated work I did for that group or company.
National Doctors’ Day is a joke. It’s a pathetic attempt by medical leaders (C-suite, organized medicine, “non-profit” boards and academies, or state and federal regulators) to pretend that they care about the doctors who work for them or are regulated by them. It’s a show and melodrama. It obscures and hides a darker reality that no one with authority wishes to admit or change because to do so would unmask their complicity in a dark crisis in our profession.
This year, as has been the case for the past few years, physicians took top honors in a dark and deadly category among the pantheon of professions in America. We have the highest rate of suicide among all professions. That the rate of suicide among physicians is the highest of all professions. Nearly 25 percent of physicians are noted to be depressed. Fifty-two percent of physicians refuse to seek help from a professional. Over 30 percent believe that doing so would affect credentialing or licensure. The suicide rate among physicians is 4.9 percent. While that number seems small – consider that the rate of suicide among the general population in the United States is 0.5 percent. Another study notes that we are losing one physician a day to suicide.
Let’s for a moment consider our competition for this distinction. We beat out nurses, dentists, first responders, and United States Armed Forces members to carve out this niche.
Congratulations to our leaders for creating an environment where our professionals kill themselves at higher rates than combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Strong work to you all. If there were an award for “doing as much nothing as possible” in this area, our leaders would have earned it.
So this Doctors’ Day, rather than accepting our pizza, pastry, and pen from medical leadership, let us begin the process of taking back our profession. Let’s transform National Doctors’ Day from a pointless exercise and a reminder of how little we are valued by our leaders and transform it into a day of remembrance. Let’s take a moment on social media and in the real world to remember all those we’ve lost to suicide and the many more to stress-related diseases or just to departure from our profession.
I would ask all doctors who see this to post something on their social media pages, in social media groups, or anywhere they feel appropriate to remember those we’ve lost and to call themselves to action. It’s time we stop waiting for the cavalry that will never come and lean on each other to survive our profession.
On March 30, 2023, let’s tell the world that we’re done seeing our colleagues end their lives in lieu of getting help. Let’s make March 30, 2023, the day we turn the tide on this blight in our profession.
James Young is a hospitalist.