Difficult Conversations Podcast

Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician

Episode 158 | November 2, 2021

Do No Harm - Conversations About Physician Suicide

Robyn Symon


Robyn Symon

Welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. We’ve had several episodes over the past eighteen months on the topics of physician burnout, the toxic culture of medicine, and the high rates of substance abuse in healthcare professionals. These are topics that I care about deeply and speak about during my presentations and workshops. I recently spoke at a Global Summit on Ending Physician Burnout. As part of the summit, attendees were able to get a free viewing of a groundbreaking and game-changing documentary, Do No Harm. This documentary is an honest, deep dive into the increasing rate of physician suicide, its origins, and why this is a serious healthcare crisis, not only for physicians but patients as well. Today, we are extremely fortunate to have the producer of this documentary, Robyn Symon, who is a two-time Emmy award-winning filmmaker, A former PBS producer, Robyn has directed six featured documentary films, as well as produced and directed television programs for various networks. We are so lucky and honored to have her as our guest today!

We learn more about Robyn and why she started to investigate the causes behind physician burnout. Dr. Orsini tells us some of the jaw-dropping statistics. Robyn reveals the truth about physician and medical student suicide and doctors reporting substance abuse. She talks about the shortage of doctors and how we need to make sure that physicians and nurses are cared for and that they are not sleep-deprived. Robyn fills us in about the documentary and talks about Hawkins, who is a very courageous med student willing to talk about his story with depression and suicide attempt. Dr. Orsini stresses how many physicians just don’t ask for help and there are no real support systems available Robyn tells us she’s optimistic but shares her concerns about the pressures on physicians. Dr. Orsini shares a story with us about “pimping” in medicine and what happened to him when he was a resident. Robyn shares a great story about the LA Children’s Hospital and what they are doing with their MA’s to free up time for the residents. Dr. Orsini and Robyn talk more about her film as she explains that it’s a tool to open a dialogue. We end with Robyn sharing the most difficult conversation she’s ever had and how she navigated through it. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go ahead and hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

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