When you applied to medical school, you probably had an excellent answer to the question “why do I want to become a doctor?” If that answer is still valid for you today, when you are ready to embrace healthcare as your career, you should know the road ahead is not always a smooth sailing through a field of roses. There are plenty of challenges ahead, and today we will look at some of them to keep you prepared for the future.
1. Bureaucracy and Problematic Healthcare Systems
Some healthcare systems are more problematic than others are, but they all share some challenges, among which bureaucracy and confusing policies are taking the stage these days. As a future doctor, you need to be ready for constant change in legislation and a lot of paperwork. Given the fact that some of the major players in healthcare are the presidency, Congress, insurance companies, and more, you have to expect some changes, conflicts, and confusion when it comes to policies and paperwork.
On the one hand, around 8.8 million Americans signed up for 2018 coverage via the federal health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, while on the other, the Affordable Care Act will end next year, per the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump.
In this framework, as a future doctor, you have to be ready to adapt and adjust to bureaucratic, political, and economic challenges that are about to come. Often, doctors feel detracted from their core mission by payment mazes, political decisions, new regulations, and the time wasted on paperwork rather than on patient care.
2. New Technologies and Sparks of Innovation
As a doctor, you will never cease to learn, evolve, innovate, create, and face technological challenges your teachers never even dreamed about. It may seem crushing at first, but if you take a look at the bigger picture, you will soon understand medical breakthroughs are the engine of proper, safe healing.
Earlier this year, the Healthcare Executive Group released the 2018 HCEG Top 10 list of critical opportunities, challenges, and issues in healthcare. Technological advancements occupy many positions on this list. The number one priority and challenge at the same time is clinical and data analytics, which involves the integration of big data with clinical evidence to segment populations, manage health, and drive decisions.
Nevertheless, before you have the opportunity to crunch big data for the benefit of your patients, you will have to learn and innovate yourself. Things are a little easier for the enthusiast researcher or the ambitious practitioner: from adding the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence in the medical practice to turning 3D printing of organs into common procedures for transplant, the world is yours.
3. Burnout and Exhaustion
If nobody told you that with great power comes great responsibility, someone should. Burnout and exhaustion are common challenges faced by medical and healthcare professionals all over the world. They occur when feelings of hopelessness to take over. Many times, you will feel that you do not spend enough quality time with your patients. Many times, you will feel that policymakers and governments do not care about you or your patients at all.
In the upcoming years, you will have to be ready for anything, to think fast, to make unconventional decisions, and to adapt to challenges as they present themselves. You will probably face situations medical school did not prepare you for: natural disasters, cyber attacks, mass shootings, and more. Moreover, the shortage issue in the healthcare field is not a surprise for anybody.
One of the most significant challenges when it comes to our global health workforce is the shortage of health workers, which could reach 18 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization, unless we manage to create 40 million new health sector jobs before then.
In other words, you will often feel alone on the battlefield, overworked, probably underpaid, and often as if derailing from your purpose as a doctor. This state of facts can lead to frustration, burnout, and physical and psychological exhaustion. Much is being done to fight pervasive burnout in healthcare, but it is and will likely remain an uphill battle.
4. A World that is Changing Fast
You live and work in a continually changing world. The doctors of your generation will have to face challenges the doctors of today did not even consider.
One might think future doctors will have an easier life and be more accomplished professionally thanks to technological developments, innovative treatments, and daily discoveries. In truth, the world and the practice of medicine can become overwhelming, especially for young doctors who still need to learn, practice, and adapt to change fast.
We are talking about new diseases and old diseases coming back to life due to climate change. The world begins to deal with air pollution-related diseases, which are new and able to change the clinical diagnosis as we know it. Future doctors will have to engage extensively in research to be able to understand and manage the emerging health issues of today (new problems in mental health, tech-induced isolation in the young, skyrocketing suicide rates, vaccination issues, outbreaks, natural or human-made catastrophes, and so on).
While you cannot change the climate on your own, you will have to be ready for everything that is about to come, good or bad. There are silver linings, of course, and they are the ones answering to your motivation for becoming a doctor in the first place.
Being a doctor is not easy. With the help of new technologies and advancements, it might become easier in time, but you will have to deal with challenges never seen before. However, medicine is fascinating, noble, and unique. If you never lose sight of what is essential – healing, saving lives – you will be able to become an outstanding member of this professional community.