Hearing the two health psychologists, Ebony Lambert and Dr. Olbirsch, speak about their experiences in health psychology was interesting. It was informative to hear their distinct perspectives because they were at such different places in their careers. Ebony, as a graduate student, was very research oriented and saw many of her challenges in terms of research barriers and theory. Her work to improve student health and address racial disparities seemed like something she was so passionate about, and I’m excited for her to make a difference for kids in Richmond. Dr. Olbirsch was at a much later point in her career, after having accomplished a significant amount and seen the evolution of health psychology throughout her career. She had been able to work closely with doctors and patients to improve patient care and surgery outcomes, as well as act as an educator for a number of years.
One of the things Dr. Olbirsch identified as a major challenge and dislike about her work was the bureaucracy (and the consequent amount of paperwork) that has become a burden for her. This was something I wasn’t very surprised by because I’ve heard so many other health professionals lament about the time spent on paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops. My parents, both of whom are clinical psychologists, have to be so diligent in keeping good records, writing detailed assessment reports, etc. It takes an unbelievable amount of their time and I know it drives my dad crazy, because he feels his time could be spent doing far more helpful things. Every single physician I’ve shadowed has echoed his sentiment too. Doctors feel like the amount of paperwork and the difficulty in sharing records makes their jobs much less efficient. It’s also not enjoyable at all, since doctors and psychologists alike go into their fields to care for people–not to fill out paperwork and abide by bureaucratic restrictions on their practice. This is something I hope improves by the time I’m a practicing physician, but I sort of doubt it will.
Overall, it was good to hear about the intersectionality of health psychology with medical care because that’s something I hope becomes more common. It was a little shocking to me that it’s still uncommon to have health psychologists staffed in a major way at hospitals, and that the field is still relatively unknown. Someday I hope I get to work alongside health psychologists, because I’d imagine they bring tremendous perspective to practicing medicine.