7 Bad Habits Medical Professionals Should Kick (While They Tell Their Patients to)

by Ryan Winter on June 15, 2010

7 Bad Habits Medical Professionals Should Kick (While They Tell Their Patients to)

It’s no joke that doctors (and other medical professionals) are often the worst patients.

mad habbits for medical professionals - smokingThough doctors, nurses and other health industry professionals often lead healthier-than-average lives (gone are the days of 9 out of 10 doctors recommending a particular brand of cigarettes,) there are a few vices that would still be good to kick while you’re asking your patients to do the same.

As far as bad habits go, scientific advances, knowledge, and common sense haven’t quite curbed all of the below in the halls of clinics and hospitals:

1. Poor nutrition (not eating regular meals, etc…)
Physician, feed thyself. Some of the worst cases of undernourished souls in a hospital are those of the doctors and nurses who are there to help patients (some of whom they are advising about poor nutrition.) Long-known for stealing nibbles and coffee here-and-there during back-to-back shifts, a new UK study suggests part of the problem could be in the medical profession’s own training on nutrition, calling for a radical rethinking of how this important element of health is taught in med school and nursing college.

2. Smoking
The stereotype of large numbers of nurses lighting-up like chimneys is off-the-mark in reality, with about 16% smoking regularly. On the other hand, nurses do smoke more than any other type of medical professional. A new series of focus groups (not peer-reviewed studies, mind you), brings up the issue that nurses who smoke are not only being unhealthy, but are negatively impacting their performance in the workplace. Having said that, despite the snappy title of this blog, we are not suggesting that any medical professional delay recommending to patients that they stop smoking before said professionals kick the habit themselves!

3. Poor financial planning
From overspending and living beyond your means to addictive spending, medical professionals will often deal with this in the way that their profession often makes possible: by working as many extra hours as possible to compensate. The stress (and guilt) that comes with this is also bad for your health. The pitfall here, especially for doctors, is a false sense of infinite finances, which can lead to spending without proper financial planning. Interestingly, this habit seems to be lower in doctors who own or are a partner in a practice, perhaps due to the strong background in finance needed to successfully run such an endeavour. The toughest situation to be in is planning poorly while working as a resident, a time when even the most prepared are stretched to the limit.

4. Excessive drinking after work
Whether to unwind, forget about the day, or enjoy a glass of wine or two, drinking moderately isn’t a problem. But doing so to excess and often is a recipe for career suicide and even early death, claims a University of Michigan study.

5. Avoidance of intimacy
A lot of doctors – especially ones in high-stress jobs such as ones in the ER and/or OR – feel the need to stay in control beyond the workplace, remaining emotionally detached long after life-and-death decisions have been made. This can translate into loosing ones self in hobbies or constant competitive sports, at the expense of family relationships and intimacy with one’s partner. The solution, say experts, is to loosen-up and realize letting go doesn’t mean loosing the edge in the workplace.

6. Excess artificial tanning
While moderate exposure to UVB and UVA rays can have numerous benefits and comparatively moderate risks for things such as melanoma and premature aging of your skin, longer exposure (the terms “longer” and “exposure” are highly subjective) can dramatically increase such risks. While many studies warn of the use of artificial means to get some extra sun, tanning industry groups claim the risk is no higher (or less so) than catching some rays at the beach. Believe it or not, the most unbiased view on the subject seems to be the Wikipedia entry on the subject. Meanwhile, use of such technology to excess – especially by those in their teens and twenties – is not recommended by anyone.

7. Speeding
Several recent surveys of the driving habits of various professionals in North America concluded that doctors are some of the safest drivers on the road. However, some medical professionals can go to extremes while driving, perhaps more-so than the average person, for example: driving to excess for fun or necessity, such as to reach an emergency. Take this example of a doctor caught doing double the speed limit in Toronto on the way to perform emergency surgery on a patient who had just suffered a massive heart attack.

Are any of the vices above on your list of bad habits to avoid? Any that we forgot that bear mentioning? Tell us what you think: Weigh-in via the Comments area below…


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry 06.22.10 at 11:27 am

The odd thing I have noticed is how overweight many nurses I work with; funny that if you enjoy a cigar now and then (like me) facilities are hesitant
or will not hire any “tobacco user”, but they still hire overweight, obese and grossly obese nurses as well as other providers and support employees. Play it both ways AHA!!!!!

Jackie Roberts 02.03.11 at 8:28 pm

It is absolutely disgusting to see a nurse lighting up a cigarette on facility premises. It is very unsanitary and it screams bad hygiene.

Erin 02.04.11 at 11:50 am

Jackie- it does kind of freak me out when I see a nurse smoking although it was a habit I had to kick myself… It seems like a lot of these bad habits are stress induced—Maybe the answer is promoting positive ways to deal with a long day of work! For me, it’s a relief to go for a run or take a 5 minute break and get some fresh air…without a cigarette in my hand!


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