When the going gets tough, we get tougher: 5 women doctors open up about their emotional struggles

Even doctors are human, after all! On International Women's Day 2022, 5 women doctors share the emotional struggles of their profession.
women doctors
Women doctors open up about their struggles. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Radhika Bhirani Updated: 9 Mar 2022, 11:27 am IST
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What would you if you had a choice between saving or caring for a life or spending time with your family or friends, and watching your little one grow? Striking a balance between personal and professional life may be a conundrum that most working women may be faced with, but its gravity increases when that woman is in the medical field. The Covid-19 pandemic threw up more unique challenges for women doctors, who not just had to fulfill their responsibilities towards their patients, but also be cautious of taking a likely infection at home. On International Women’s Day, Health Shots spoke to 5 doctors who shared the emotional health struggles of being in the profession, and how they battle them.

Women doctors and their emotional challenges

Dr Shelly Singh, Senior Consultant – Gynaecology, Rosewalk Healthcare, New Delhi, says projecting a strong image to patients, while you fear for them as well as your family, is ingrained in them through their stint as doctors. But the Covid-19 pandemic was a “refresher course of the hardest kind”.

“It’s a little over two years that Covid-19 spread its terror on the world. We’ve jostled with it mentally, physically, financially and emotionally – as women and as doctors on the frontline, a bit more head on,” adds Dr Singh, who admits that working at a hospital was a challenge with the ‘new normal protocols’ such as double masks, eye shields and PPE kits.

Despite following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, she fell prey to Covid-19 twice; as did her family in the first wave. With her younger son needing hospitalization in the first wave and elderly mother-in-law refusing to go to hospital, fearing she would never return, the onus was on Dr Singh and her husband to look after everyone despite being sick themselves. But once she got well, she went back to hospital with renewed vigour.

“Thankfully, I’ve been able to go back to work to look after my patients, their unborn babies in the womb and my own family. God has been on my side. As they say, when things get tough, we women get tougher. Here’s to women power, here’s to strong women, here’s to my bravest of brave health workers.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on doctors! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

A doctor shares her learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic

A doctor’s job is both physically and emotionally challenging, avers Dr Sharwari Dhabade Dua, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Rosewalk Healthcare.

“I’ve learnt from my mother that a woman not only runs the house with her skills, but also with her heart. As doctors, we have to work round the clock all-year long, and take care of the house at the same time. It not just involves not just physical work, but also work on the emotional front, to stay connected with our family and make sure we are there for them too,” Dr Dua tells Health Shots.

“The pandemic not only made me realise my strengths as a doctor but also made me more confident as a homemaker,” she adds, outlining how there were days when she couldn’t return home until midnight and yet make sure everyone at home was tended to.

Admitting that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a period of physical and mental stress, Dr Anamika Dubey, Senior Consultant, General Paediatrics, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, New Delhi, cites some inspirational words by spiritual guru Sadhguru.

“I read somewhere in Sadhguru’s teachings that being happy and peaceful is considered the ultimate mantra for a successful life, but it is actually the most fundamental aspect of life. Though it was hard to achieve in this pandemic, but at the end you realize, the quality of your life does not depend on how simple or complex it is. It depends on how you look at it. We, as women, must take charge of our surroundings. Just one wrong thought or emotion , anger and anxiety, can destroy everything in and around you.”

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Ever since the pandemic, Dr Dubey has decided to exercise and meditation for physical and mental stress, to be positive both at work and home, to focus on things we can control, maintain a routine, and to make time for activities you like and enjoy.

doctor and mental health
Doctors have a lot on their mind. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How can women doctors maintain the work-life balance?

The work-life balance game is very sensitive for women.

Dr Jayasree Sundar, Director – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, New Delhi, says it was only after the 1980s that the concept of working mother started to be accepted in our society – and that too if she is able to fulfill all her ‘matriarchal’ duties.

“Women could have been the toppers in their class, but still take the backseat once they are married. Things started changing bit by bit but not at the same pace in which women were getting themselves educated. Some professions like medicine and teaching accepted women better and earlier than others,” says Dr Sundar.

So while she highlights how women doctors undergo the same hardship of sleepless nights, 48-hour duties and celebrating festivals in hospitals, the expert adds that the hardships become harder once a lady doctor gets married and has a family of her own.

Another doctor concedes on this emotional aspect of life.

“Spending quality time with your spouse also becomes a once-in-a-while affair, because when you are home, your husband may be at work and vice versa. We miss out on lot of small, happy things in life. Running between hospital work and home errands most of the time, we often have very less time for pleasure. Perhaps, more support for working women might change this kind of life,” says Dr Neha Khandelwal, Senior Consultant – Obstetrician and Gynaecology, Rosewalk Healthcare, New Delhi.


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About the Author

Radhika Bhirani is a journalist with close to 15 years of experience in the Indian media industry. After writing extensively on health, lifestyle and entertainment, she leads the English content team at Health Shots. She has a special interest in writing on mental health and wellness. ...Read More

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