People working in medical professions have a lot on their plate. They have to contend with long work hours, emotionally and physically exhausting labour, and a constant stream of patients who rely on them for help. It’s a difficult job no matter what way you slice it, and they often go unappreciated.
The statistics speak for themselves; in the UK, one in four junior doctors are so tired, they fall asleep at the wheel: that’s 41 percent of 1,100 junior doctors. These levels of tiredness are dangerous, and don’t just impact the doctors themselves. If a medical professional is tired then it follows that the level of care given to their patients will also suffer.
It’s not just doctors in the UK who are facing exhaustion due to long hours. It seems like this chronic overwork is a global issue. For example, this week in China, a photograph of a sleeping surgeon has made its way around the Asian social media site, Weibo: providing us with a stark reminder of the perils of overworked doctors and understaffed hospitals.
Surgeon Luo Heng, pictured, had just finished a 28-hour operation when he was seen asleep on the hospital floor. According to People’s Daily Online’s social media account, the surgeon immediately fell asleep on the floor following the operation.
The photographs were taken on March 30th at a hospital in Dingyuan County, China’s Anhui province. It’s reported that Heng worked through the night on two surgeries, and then performed three more surgeries the following morning. To ask a surgeon to perform five consecutive operations is far too much, by anyone’s standards. The safety of the patient is compromised, as is the skill of the doctor involved.
The responses were pretty mixed on social media. One user commented: “I hope the media do not promote this. A doctor is not only a career, but a doctor is also a person.” On the other hand, one user praised the surgeon’s work: “I salute you, you have worked hard.” Personally, I believe that this workload is inhumane, and asks for too much from the doctors working.
In an ideal world, there would be enough surgeons and medical professionals to ensure that these long hours are not commonplace. Instead, many medical professionals lose sleep, a social life and time for themselves so that the general public can be cared for.
These surgeons that face ten-hour-long operations are the unsung heroes of our medical profession, and deserve the utmost respect for carrying out such a mentally and physically demanding job. If anything, I feel like a fool for complaining about my hour-long commute to work. It’s people like that who really have it tough, and we need to celebrate those who work in the medical profession far more than we do already. Soldiers are called heroes, so why not doctors?