Barbra Streisand and the Practice of Medicine

By Steve Adelman, MD

What do these two pictures of Barbra Streisand tell us about the shifting role of physicians?

In the first picture we see Barbra in her full glory. Alone, on center stage, belting out one of my sister-in-law’s favorite torch songs. You just know that all eyes of the audience are on her, that she is in her element, that she may even be “in the zone.”

In the second picture, Barbra is a member of a chorus, a face in the crowd. To me she looks uncomfortable, almost lost. Other singers appear more engaged in the moment, more enthusiastic. Their eyes are trained off to the left, whereas Barbra looks straight ahead.  Barbara Streisand is no longer in her element.

Many of us went into medicine when the profession promised us autonomy, authority, and some measure of control of our destinies. Physicians were at the center of the health care stage. If we weren’t practicing like solo pilots, we were like ship captains. Our place in the health care hierarchy was at the top.

Medicine has become a team sport. The members of the team are too numerous to count. Some of them are nameless and faceless, yet the roles they play have a material impact on our sense of professional well-being, our livelihoods, and on our ability to maintain a sense of healthy balance in our lives.  The lives of some physicians are becoming increasingly unmanageable, as we endeavor to adapt and adjust to our new professional and societal roles.

All of this is stressful. And stress leads to professional and personal burnout – a sense of physical, emotional, and cognitive exhaustion.

We still have space in our 9th Annual Caring for the Caregivers Conference, “How Do We Reduce Physician Stress and Burnout?” This content-rich one day CME conference will be held on Thursday, Octo­ber 3, 2013, at MMS headquarters. If you choose to participate, you will acquire knowledge and skills to enhance your well-being at work, bulking you up to face the stresses and strains of everyday medical practice.

Register here for the conference, while space is still available.

Dr. Adelman is director of Physician Health Services, Inc., a corporation of the Massachusetts Medical Society. For more information, visit Opinions expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Massachusetts Medical Society or Physician Health Services.


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