There may be no other job in the healthcare field as mentally and emotionally draining as psychiatry. To say that psychiatry jobs are not for everyone is to state the obvious and simplify the momentous. Psychiatrists, more than any other healthcare professional, deal with some of the worst aspects of being human. And yet they continue to do what they do to the benefit of those patients they serve.
So what keeps psychiatrists on the job? What drives them to practice in an area of medicine that is both highly personal and equally impersonal at the same time? Doctors do what they do for different reasons. As a general rule though, psychiatry is a form of medicine clinicians find attractive for a small number of reasons. Some of those reasons are listed below, adapted from a Psychiatric Times piece written by Dr. Daniel Morehead.
1. Opportunities to Change Lives
Just about every medical discipline offers the opportunity to change lives. Yet psychiatrists have opportunities that other clinicians never get. They work long-term with patients whose futures hinge on the doctor-patient relationship. They get to know patients personally – in a way that’s just not possible in other medical disciplines. And even when possible, such deep relationships are often not recommended within those other disciplines.
There is this innate desire in human beings to contribute to the common good in some way. This desire seems to be prevalent among doctors in general, and psychiatrists in particular.
2. The Need to Be Needed
Another trait that seems prevalent among psychiatrists is a need to be needed. Again, doctors in just about every discipline feel this way at one time or another. Yet psychiatrists seem to be more affected by it. The good news is that they will always be needed. As long as humankind roams the earth, psychiatry will be in high demand.
3. Medical and Intellectual Challenges
Part of what makes psychiatry so attractive is the challenges it presents. Psychiatrists are challenged professionally and personally. Every new case presents another challenge to improve medically, intellectually, and even emotionally. In effect, you can say that psychiatrists are challenged to work on self-improvement even as they treat their patients.
Other medical disciplines have their unique challenges as well. Psychiatry is different in that it often causes the clinician to take what is learned from patients and turn it inward. In that way, they are challenged to better themselves.
4. A Fascination with the Mind
The mind, unlike the body, is not necessarily easy to understand. You can order a simple x-ray and determine that a patient has broken a bone. You can order an MRI to confirm a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. But more often than not, definitive tests capable of proving a psychiatric diagnosis do not exist.
Psychiatrists tend to find the human mind a lot more fascinating than the body. They thrive on exploring emotions and thought processes. Their own intellects are stimulated by trying to get into the minds of their patients. You can do things in psychiatry that just aren’t possible in any other form of medicine.
5. The Financial Aspect
It would be impossible to write a post like this without talking about the financial aspect. The truth is that psychiatrists are among the highest paid clinicians. Moreover, higher-than-average compensation runs the gamut from private practice owners to locum tenens psychiatric providers. Psychiatrists make good money. It is as simple as that.
There are things about psychiatry that aren’t necessarily pleasant. Yet the positives of the profession far outweigh the negatives. That’s why psychiatrists stay on the job.