The Risks of Being a Cardiologist

More than 25 percent of cardiologists admit that malpractice threats influence their medical decisions.
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Cardiovascular diseases continue to claim more American lives than any other ailment. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are at high risk for developing a cardiovascular disease. The demand for heart surgeons and cardiologists increases every year, but aspiring cardiologists must weigh the risks associated with the occupation. Cardiologists can enjoy a rewarding career, but they must deal with uncertainties including student loan debt, lawsuits and the toll on their health.

Student Loan Debts

    Cardiologists attend college and medical school for a total of eight years, then commit to several more years of residency. More than 85 percent of medical students borrow money for their education, with the average student taking on roughly $150,000 in loans. Aspiring doctors have no guarantee of success in medical school. Additionally, cardiologists must pass board certifications after graduation to be licensed.

High Stakes

    Cardiologists treat diseases that claim more than 2,200 American lives per day. They must recognize and treat heart conditions and have little room for error. An overworked, stressed cardiologist can easily make a mistake, which could cost a patient his life. When a cardiologist does make a mistake, he may be investigated and his license to practice medicine may be in jeopardy.


    Twenty percent of cardiologists are sued for medical malpractice every year, causing many of them to practice medicine "defensively." According to an article published in "Circulation," cardiologists order about 30 percent of heart catheterizations because other cardiologist did so in similar situations. Heart catheterizations are somewhat dangerous procedures used to find blockages in arteries. If a patient complains of blockage symptoms and a heart cath is not performed, the cardiologist could be liable if the ailment goes undiagnosed. A cardiologist can be sued for unnecessarily performing a heart cath, too. To protect themselves, cardiologist sometimes make heart cath decisions based on the decisions of others. If a lawsuit is filed against the cardiologist, he can show that his colleagues made the same decision in similar situations. By making decisions consistent with other doctors, a cardiologist protects himself against a medical malpractice lawsuit. Moreover, since a single suit can cost a cardiologist millions of dollars, malpractice insurance for cardiologists is extremely expensive.

Personal Health

    The demanding work environment of a cardiologist poses health risks for the practitioner. Cardiologists work long, irregular hours in high-pressure situations. Stress can lead to a host of medical conditions including hypertension, anxiety and depression. According to a study published by the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, stress in the medical profession leads to either "burnout" or "physical and/or mental impairment." Burnout is when doctors lose their zeal to practice medicine, leading to medical negligence, premature retirement or a career change.

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