Last year, when David Langer, MD, the chair of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, went skiing in Colorado, he never imagined he would end up with such a severe spinal injury that he would wake up on the slope completely unable to move.
“I don’t exactly know what happened that day, but I think having a near-death experience opened me up to the importance of realizing that you only go through this once,” Langer told Medscape Medical News.
Langer’s brush with mortality prompted him to recalibrate. “A few months after my injury, I started meditating,” he says. “After that experience, I realized that you never know when life might end…. I know that, in my own way, my worldview is different now.”
Doctors aren’t immune to injury. In fact, anywhere between 2% and 5% of physicians become ill or disabled during their careers, according to a British study. The whys are equally interesting:
Physicians may have an adrenaline-junkie personality and be interested in pursuing riskier hobbies and activities.
They tend to neglect their health.
Workplace injuries and accidents are common.
In addition, workplace violence in healthcare has risen every year since 2011, up 62%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And with the physician shortage, especially in rural areas, preventing disabilities and safeguarding doctors’ wellness should always be top of mind.
Wear the Proper Safety Gear
One easy way to avoid a potentially life-altering accident? Wear a helmet, suggests Ryan Stanton, MD, an emergency physician practicing in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Most physicians who participate in riskier behaviors adhere more to the safety of it,” says Stanton. He said his partner was out of work after a mountain biking accident, and he knows another doctor who had to take leave after a paragliding accident. “When I mountain bike or snow ski, I always wear a helmet.”
ED doctors urge you to protect your hands and upper body by wearing gloves and protective eye gear when participating in extreme sports.
“When you hurt your hands or upper extremities, you’re out of work for a while because that’s what you need to use on the job,” says Stephen Anderson, MD, an emergency physician in Seattle, Washington. “I’ve seen doctors wheeling around on scooters due to injured ankles and knees, but at least they can return to work.”
Also, wear a seatbelt, no matter what. “I would never think to or allow my family to get into a vehicle and move without a seatbelt,” Stanton says.
Take Care on the Job
As for on-the-job injuries, it’s all about teamwork, says Anderson. “The two most common injuries in the hospital are lifting injuries and injuries from a patient who hurts you,” he says. “If you’re lifting, lift with multiple people. If a patient seems out of control or combative, never handle this person on your own.”
The Occupational and Safety Health Administration confirms that sprains and strains to the shoulders and lower back are the most frequently reported injuries among healthcare workers on the job, followed by trips, slips, and falls.
The ED is also a particulary dangerous setting for workplace violence, owing to the nature of some patients who seek care there, including those with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, or psychiatric conditions. Coupled with long wait times, staff shortages, and the additional stressors of COVID-19, workplace violence among physicians is a serious concern.
Skip Alcohol and Risky Athletics
It’s critical to never mix alcohol or any intoxicant with extreme sports. “You’ll find that doctors won’t do a double black diamond run after lunch if they’ve had a couple of drinks,” Anderson says. “They’ll hit the bar after the ski slopes, because alcohol and fast sports don’t mix well — nor does vaping, which slows your reflexes.”
You Love Skiing, Snowboarding, Mountain Biking, and Motorcycle Racing; Now What?
When asked whether doctors should avoid potentially risky activities because they could get hurt, overwhelmingly, the doctors who spoke with Medscape Medical News said no.
However, the reality is that a serious injury can forever change your life — and your ability to practice medicine.
“Most doctors aren’t paranoid about scrapes and cuts, since that’s just stitches,” says Anderson. “But it’s lost income when you throw out your knee skiing and have to take the time for an ACL repair.”
Living your life — happily — is a mantra for Torree McGowan, MD, an emergency physician in Redmond, Oregon. She’ll never give up riding horses, even though statistically, it’s one of the most dangerous sports out there.
“Being with my horses is my therapy, my time away,” McGowan says. “I often make the joke that I work so my horses can have a better life, but in 20 years of riding and being a doctor, I’ve never missed a shift because of an injury. That’s because I’m aware of the risk and take the proper safety measures, like helmets, protective gear, and appropriate training and equipment.”
Or, like Langer, the awareness of risk and the recovery from a serious injury — he was diagnosed with central cord syndrome, a temporary injury to his spine — might be what propel you to opt for a less challenging trail. He has since made a full recovery.
“I don’t think you can say, ‘I had this fall and will stay away from skiing for the rest of my life,’ ” Langer says. “When I got hurt, I was doing the thing I love to do. Yes, I’m aware that I can get hurt, and, yes, I’m skiing differently, but I’m not going to stop doing the things I love.”
Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City–based journalist who covers health, relationships, trends, and issues of importance to women. She’s also a longtime professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/998709?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-11-21 19:41:11
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