Job Title: Psychiatrist
Type of Company: City hospital
Education: BA in English, Amherst College MD, Dartmouth Medical School
Previous Experience: I have worked in the same hospital for 19 years, moved in to current position 12 years ago.
Job Tasks: I am a psychiatrist who manages a designated psychiatric emergency service. This is a special kind of emergency room dedicated to treating acute psychiatric/psychological crises such as suicidal thoughts or behavior, psychotic symptoms (hearing voices, believing things that are not real) , overwhelming depression or anxiety, out of control drug or alcohol abuse, intense distress around school, relationships etc. The service is staffed by psychiatric doctors, nurses, and social workers. A minority of patients are hospitalized after an evaluation (about 1/3), but most are discharged to some kind of outpatient counseling, possibly started on a medication to help with their symptoms.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are meeting people in acute distress, trying to rapidly but compassionately understand their situation, and come up with interventions to help them feel and function better.
The hardest parts of my job are due to the limitations in resources (lack of health insurance, finances etc..) that make it hard for patients to get the help they need. I have to negotiate on a daily basis with health insurance companies arguing for benefits that I believe patients need to get better.
Job Tips: To be a psychiatrist you have to complete pre-med courses in college, get into medical school (and pay for for medical school), then complete a psychiatric residency which takes an additional 4 years. It's a long haul and requires commitment, patience, and true enthusiasm for the field. If you don't find medicine fascinating, the demands of becoming a doctor - psychiatric or otherwise - will wear you down!
Additional Thoughts: My job is NEVER boring. Every day is stimulating and I always feel that I'm making a contribution to the well-being of others. Understanding the human psyche and experience is a never-ending source of interest. I feel lucky to get paid to do what I find so rewarding. Important personal qualities for success include self-disclipline, altruism, and the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes without judging them.
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