Saturday, September 17, 2005

White Coat Blues

Medical school is a set up for developing clinical depression. Sleep deprivation, socialization into a profession where illness and death are routine, and an academic work load unlike any other ever encountered all add up to quite a burden for your synapses. The New England Journal writes this week:

Students may become depressed at any point in medical school, but Gartrell has found that the period of greatest distress occurs during the third and fourth years, when students rotate through the hospitals and clinics. "In the clinical years, there's just far greater commitment of time, plus as match pressure begins to emerge, it's an extremely stressful time for a lot of people," she said. Students are often separated from friends and classmates and must work with a constantly changing set of residents and attending physicians, which contributes to their sense of isolation. Gartrell said that many of the female students she sees are worried that the mounting demands of training and clinical practice will not allow them time to find a partner, marry, and have children. Haynes noted that the increase in sleep deprivation during rotations may also expose mood disorders.

There's no question that even under the best circumstances medical school pushes people's cognitive and emotional reserves to the limits. I'm glad that the risk of depression is getting more attention.


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