Have you ever found yourself trapped in a job that seemed to suffocate your spirit? The kind of place where stepping through the doors invoked an overwhelming sense of dread, and encountering management left you feeling like your kindness and loyalty were taken for granted? Perhaps you’ve experienced a workplace where basic concessions seemed like an impossible ask, and your plea for them fell on deaf ears. In such an environment, you might have observed a culture of indifference, where mediocrity and toxic behaviors became the accepted norm. When you dared to uphold your standards, you were seen as an outlier, expected to compromise your values in exchange for participating in a depressing, toxic system of employment. If this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone; unfortunately, such work environments are far too common.
The prevalence of soul-crushing workplaces is particularly pronounced in health care, where the expectation is to lead and exemplify health practices. Shocking statistics reveal the extent of abusive and toxic behaviors within the medical profession, including physicians, practices, and hospital leadership.
Recent data underscores that toxic workplace culture is not exclusive to the medical field. A substantial three out of five (64 percent) of all U.S. workers, irrespective of their profession, admit to having experienced a toxic work culture. Moreover, one out of five workers acknowledges that this toxicity has had significant ramifications on their mental health. Experts emphasize that certain elements commonly found in health care work environments, such as stress, extended work hours, and well-established hierarchies, can exacerbate the impact of a challenging work environment.
For instance, statistics reveal that a staggering 65 percent of physician assistants (PAs) report experiencing burnout and/or depression. Within this group, 43 percent identify a lack of respect from colleagues and staff as a leading contributor to their distress. Additionally, too many bureaucratic tasks, cited by 57 percent, emerge as the most prevalent reason contributing to the challenging work environment.
These statistics highlight the urgent need to address toxic workplace cultures across various professions, particularly in health care. Failing to address the toxicity in health care will only lead to its continued deterioration, causing doctors and other health care professionals to leave their roles. In extreme cases, some may even resort to the tragic decision of taking their own lives, underscoring the urgency of addressing toxic workplace cultures.
The unsettling truth is that instances of suicide among health care professionals due to toxic workplace environments are not isolated incidents. Numerous stories highlight the profound impact of relentless stress, mistreatment, and a toxic culture that has pushed dedicated professionals to the darkest corners of despair. These stories serve as stark reminders of the urgent need for comprehensive intervention and reform within the health care industry.
In recent years, the field of medicine has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of professionals who, unable to bear the weight of toxic work environments, have chosen to end their lives. While these stories are deeply distressing, they provide a critical insight into the magnitude of the problem and the urgent need for systemic change. Behind each tragedy lies a narrative of unaddressed stressors, overwhelming expectations, and an environment that failed to prioritize the well-being of its caregivers.
Health care is undeniably a noble calling, driven by a passion to serve and care for patients. However, I’ve come to realize the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. I am committed to thriving in workplaces that prioritize health, participating in health care systems that promote positive behaviors, collaboration, empathy, and active listening. If a workplace fails to align with these values, my choice is clear—I will resign and move on to preserve the peace that I hold in such high regard.
Quitting a job is not a sign of weakness but rather a courageous act of self-care. It’s an acknowledgment that one’s well-being should not be sacrificed for the sake of a toxic workplace culture. In the face of an unhealthy work environment, choosing to resign is a bold statement that says, “I refuse to accept the status quo, and I prioritize my mental and emotional health over toxic norms.”
As professionals in the health care field, we must collectively take a stand against toxic behaviors and demand change. Our commitment to our patients and the integrity of the health care system compels us to be vocal advocates for healthier work environments. Only through transparency, open dialogue, and a collective effort can we hope to transform the landscape of health care and ensure that professionals no longer feel compelled to sacrifice their well-being for the sake of their careers.
Tomi Mitchell, a family physician and founder of Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies, is not only a distinguished international keynote speaker but also a passionate advocate for mental health and physician’s well-being, hosting her podcast, The Mental Health & Wellness Show. With over a decade of experience in presenting, public speaking, and training, she excels in creating meaningful connections with her audience. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and book a discovery call.