The silent epidemic among clinicians – Stress and Burnout

  • Indiran Govender University of Limpopo(Medunsa campus)


We have recently been inundated with epidemics such as the HIV epidemic, epidemic of non-communicable diseases, the obesity epidemic, and many more. However, as clinicians in a caring profession, I truly believe the epidemic that we are facing, the epidemic we really avoid acknowledging, because it shows our weakness and is thus really silent, is stress, burnout and depression among doctors.1,2,3 Stress and burnout are high among all doctors, whether they work in the private or public health sector of South Africa.1,2 All these mental health challenges are mostly work related. However, stress and burnout stem from more than just our current work as they extend further into our nature, our character, and our personality traits. This ambitious work and goal driven, determined nature is what is still sought out by medical schools as necessary for admission. The candidates who give up everything else to concentrate on their studies, to extend their medical knowledge and competence at the expense of other compartments (aspects) to their lives, such as hobbies, sport, family, friends, spiritual activities, etc., are the candidates with typical type A personality traits. They inevitably score lower than non-medical peers for emotional and social intelligence. This suggests that even on entry to medical schools, these men and women are at risk of emotional burnout.