Can depression damage a medical career?

There is no doubt that working as a doctor or nurse is an incredibly stressful career. When most people call something “a matter of life or death,” they’re being figurative. But for medical professionals, this phrase is all too literal. Every day, doctors and nurses are faced with high-stakes decisions that, depending on the circumstances, could have either miraculous or disastrous consequences.

It should come as no surprise, then, that these stress levels can start to take a toll on medical professionals’ mental health. Anecdotally, it is clear that the medical profession has higher than average rates of depression and other mental health issues. For example, it has been shown that more than half of all female physicians report struggling with depression at some point in their lives. (Data on male physicians hasn’t been widely reported.)

Compounding this problem is the fact that many medical professionals are hesitant to talk about their struggles with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Some of it may stem from an urge to be “tough” around others who are struggling, or to put their patients’ needs ahead of their own. In addition, some doctors report feeling fearful that admitting a mental health problem could have a negative impact on their professional reputation or career performance.

Despite these fears, it is always a good idea for anyone — doctors and nurses included — to get help for depression. Often, a combination of medication and therapy can significantly improve quality of life for people suffering from depression. Vary rarely does proactively addressing a mental health issue damage a medical career.

In fact, it is the opposite that is true. In some cases, untreated depression can cause medical professionals to act out or neglect their work. When this happens, their medical licensure can be at risk. Individuals who are facing disciplinary action because of an underlying mental health issue should be sure to get help from an experienced lawyer who can help them protect their careers.

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