Physician Suicide Is Not Just An American Problem

Check this out. What you will see is that a single hospital in Israel, pictured above, has had four physician suicides since 2018. Amazingly, two of the physicians weren’t just Residents, who kill themselves with an extremely unfortunate regularity due to the stresses of training, uncertainty and long work ours. Nope. One headed Plastic Surgery, the other Soroka hospital’s Cardiac ICU.

When I visited Israel years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with one of the world’s most renowned spine surgeons and his OR RN wife. We had sort of an amazing conversation. Routine in Israel is to work 6 days a week, taking only the sabbath off. Both the Doctor and his wife did that without complaint. Amusingly, his only concern, and it was a serious one for him, is that he got paid no more by the government for his expertise than did a Dermatologist who “just pops pimples.”  

But scroll forward a couple decades. We see doctors in this Beersheba hospital working 430 hours a month to keep up with their surgical and training schedules. And yes, the hospital put in a program to try to prevent further suicides. And yes, the hospital says that the doctors are their “top priority.” But no, that doesn’t really cut the mustard when you still have physicians working well over 100 hours a week.

Bottom Line. Around the world, we seem to have the same problem. Administrators (Who I am guessing are notworking 430 hours a month!!!) are installing “Resiliency Programs,” when what they really need to be doing is to make physicians’ work lives more manageable.  

In a couple of weeks, I am going to be making a presentation at PMRC on the three reasons why pharmaceutical marketers and marketing researchers need to start to include physician burnout in their understanding and segmentation of physicians. I am going to begin by expressing my frustration at the fact that although I have been writing about suicide and burnout for several years, nobody in our industry seems to care.  

We should!!!

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