Surgeons have always been thought of as the rockstars of the medical industry. There are even TV shows that center around the daily lives of these healthcare professionals in and out of the operating rooms. Top surgeons in real life or even those on the big screen are shown to be these wise and mature doctors who have years of experience under their belt. Rarely are young surgeons talked about since they are considered to be lacking in knowledge and practice. Unfortunately, an increasing number of young surgeons are appearing to have shorter life expectancies than seniors in the field. Which makes many wonder why this is the case? Why do surgeons die young?
Reasons why surgeons are dying young
Over the years more and more younger doctors, particularly those who are practicing as surgeons are surprisingly passing away at an early age. This has led to the industry investigating why mortality rates have gone up for the younger set of physicians. Here are the most common factors that have been found to cause these deaths:
Operating procedures whether they be minor or a major one come with many risk factors. Some of which can manifest themselves during the procedure or sometimes, after. Nonetheless, these complications along with the delicate intricacies of an operation can cause a lot of stress to the attending surgeon. Furthermore, because the success of each procedure lies heavily on the shoulders of the surgical team leader, a lot of anxiety and pressure can build up over time. Stress has been known to cause a variety of illnesses like an elevated heart rate, hypertension, strokes, and even an aneurysm. All these when left unnoticed can cause the early demise of a young surgeon.
Long work hours
Although there are simple procedures (vasectomy for example) that can last only 30mins, a large number of operations take an hour minimum. On the other hand, major surgical procedures can go on for hours, even days at a time. While major surgeries involve several surgical teams who work in shifts, each group generally spends countless hours performing in the theater before handing the reins on to the next surgeon.
But the work of a surgeon does not always begin and end in the operating theater. Oftentimes they are tasked with consulting other professionals regarding a patient’s current health condition and the routes that should be taken to get him back to his best health. Due to the long working hours a surgeon has, many come down with ailments from the schedules they keep.
Contamination or contracting a disease in the workplace can happen even in the most sterile environment. Small errors in hygiene practices can cause contamination. This can particularly be problematic when a surgeon or the team becomes exposed to bodily fluids and plasma that contain viruses. Usually, such exposure is caught early on allowing those who have contracted the disease to get treated immediately. In some select incidents, it is possible for the contamination to go undetected until it is too late to seek medical attention.
Lack of sleep
Not only do their long work hours affect the quality of sleep they get, but the lack of rest also affects other day-to-day activities. Doctors are always on call, which is why very few get a good night of sleep. A large majority of healthcare practitioners typically find themselves in dire need of a minimum of 6hours of sleep daily. Because of this, other aspects of their life suffer. Not to mention that tiredness has been shown to have caused many roadside accidents that have led to the deaths of surgeons at an early age. Without enough rest, body functions become, organs, mental ability, and reflexes become compromised. These days, a lot of hospitals and clinics make an effort to ensure that their staff gets ample rest – including vacations.
Poor diet and lack of exercise
Surgeons spend hours at a time standing. Their work requires concentration and a steady hand. To keep operating rooms sterile and free from any contamination, drinking and of course eating are not allowed inside. Thus, lots of surgeons miss many meals in favor of ensuring that they complete procedures successfully. While many in the healthcare industry make an effort to eat healthily and exercise regularly, the sad reality is that busy schedules do not make these practices feasible all the time. Additionally, when many get off work and are faced with hunger, their fastest recourse is to seek out fast food. An unhealthy choice but clearly the quickest way to satiate their starving bellies.
Lack of exercise can very well lead to numerous health concerns like high cholesterol levels, a decrease in flexibility and dexterity, poor stamina, and a decline in overall health. Poor lifestyle habits when compounded with other factors can result in health conditions that both young and old surgeons can fall victim to.
Depleting mental health
Just like the body, the mind needs recharging. Even the most experienced surgeon can encounter issues during a procedure, sometimes it can even result in an unsuccessful operation, as well as the demise of the patient. When these unfortunate incidents occur, it affects the surgeon and his team mentally and emotionally. Since sickness and death are not uncommon in the industry, surgeons without ample emotional support or therapy can suffer from depressive episodes.
Are surgeons dying young? Some studies in India are now showing that younger surgeons are becoming susceptible to depression and sadly this leads to an increase in suicide rates. Of course, this is not the only cause of demise in surgeons. Information gathered over the years details that the stresses of the job have been causing various health concerns in surgeons. The pressure involved in ascertaining that every procedure goes according to plan has caused anxiety levels to rise, resulting in a spike in blood pressure and sometimes cardiac arrest.
In order to avoid deaths in surgeons regardless of their age, the medical industry is being encouraged to provide them with ample support. Hospitals are making an effort to include health facilities in-house for the staff to use during their free time. Healthier options in cafeterias help patients, visitors, and healthcare workers find filling and nutritious food. Some medical centers also offer psychological assistance to combat the emotional turmoil that is experienced in the workplace. These additions may seem minimal but when implemented correctly can help save the lives of surgeons who are burnt out from their work.