A psychiatrist is a physician who diagnoses and treats health conditions related to the mind. If you have a strong ability to listen, show compassion for someone struggling with depression, anxiety or substance abuse, psychiatry can be a rewarding career. However, psychiatrists do face some challenges in the profession.
On the whole, psychiatrists are well-paid, as is common in medical professions. However, an October 2011 "Medscape" article noted a significant gender imbalance in pay. The median pay reported by men in the "Medscape" study was $186,000. The median pay for women was solid at $160,000, but well below male counterparts. This is the case even though women make up a relatively higher portion of psychiatrists than in other medical specialties.
While psychiatrists do often have a better work-life balance than physicians and surgeons, many still maintain a significant amount of appointment hours with patients. According to the "Medscape" article, 30 percent of survey respondents indicated meeting with patients 41 hours or more per week. Another 40 percent of psychiatrists spent between 30 and 40 hours with patients. In addition to patient meetings, psychiatrists put in further hours planning and reviewing patient notes. Additionally, some take after-hours emergency calls from patients.
Psychiatry is often a high stress career. Not only is each day full of six to eight hours or more of appointments, but the job largely involves listening to people express their problems and frustrations. Psychiatrists must have an extremely high level of serenity and an ability to separate their jobs from their personal lives. When under extreme pressure from difficult or demanding patients and other job burdens, psychiatrists can themselves become victims of illness, anxiety and even depression.
Psychiatrists are exposed to potential physical threats or actions from patients who may become volatile during an appointment, or who blame their psychiatrists for their problems. A March 2011 "Psychiatric Times" article noted that from 1993 to 1999, psychiatrists experienced a rate of 68.2 nonfatal violent crimes per 1,000 professionals. Comparatively, physicians had a rate of 16.2 per 1,000 and all workers had a rate of 12.6 per 1,000.
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