The signs and symptoms of stress

Residency Program Insider, May 19, 2020

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Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from HCPro’s book, Resident Well-Being: A Guide for Residency Programs. Click here to order your copy.

Every resident has stress, but today’s residents may have more than those of past generations. The new pressures include financial obligations and an uncertain future. This stress can cause residents to lose their passion for medicine, become cynical about the healthcare system, and become less humanistic.

Residents often feel that they cannot express their dissatisfaction with the residency program or with healthcare in general because they will be seen as weak. And by throwing themselves so completely into the residency experience, the residents often cut themselves off from outside sources of stress relief, such as friends and family. The result is that too many residents suffer terrible stress during the program and then are left cynical, less ethical, and unhappy with their chosen profession. They also become more susceptible to anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

Be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms of stress in your residents:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Stomach and back problems
  • Serious fatigue
  • Memory deterioration
  • Reduced attention span and ability to concentrate
  • Reduction in organizational skills
  • Hostility
  • Personality changes
  • Increased use of alcohol and tobacco products
  • Increased number or work-related injuries and medical errors
  • Distancing oneself from patients (e.g., referring to patients by diagnoses instead of by names)

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