Careers Talk

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.

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4 Responses to Careers Talk

  1. Eve Gilles says:

    I definitely agree that bureaucratic regulation is a problem! Hopefully progress such as moving to electronic records and changing regulations can combat this frustration. I also hope that intersectionality between health psychology and medical care becomes more common, as this will allow better communication between patients and doctors, facilitate identification of risk factors, and help patients improve their outcomes by learning about preventative care, using social support and reducing stress.

  2. Natalie Szumel says:

    I liked what you had to say about the bureaucracy in the health professions. I want to be a child psychologist or psychiatrist when after graduate school, so the reminder that paperwork is on the horizon was a little disheartening. It really is true though that health professionals go into the field and train for years to HELP people–not fill out oodles and oodles of paperwork.

    I also thought it was cool to hear how health psychologists fit into the larger scheme of a hospital setting and their work with other health professionals. Hope you get a good health psychologist wherever you end up working!

  3. Gabe Thomas says:

    I completely agree with the bureaucratic aspect, as my mother is also a clinical psychologist. She often tells me of the extensive amounts of paperwork and notes she has to do and the burden it is for her. As my mother works long hours, and has her own practice she is always with a patient or working on notes even after getting off of work. I also hope there is some change in the future to the amount of paperwork and the efficiency in which it is done, by the time I am possibly practicing. At the end of the day, I know these physicians just want to help people and I completely understand where you are coming from after hearing my mother’s struggles within the system, seeing it first hand from shadowing and reading of your own parent’s struggles. Great summary!

  4. Brittany Woo says:

    Similar to you, I appreciated the two different view points from the diverse speakers we had in class yesterday. It was quite interesting and dynamic to have speakers of different ethinicitys, age, and field of study. I particularly enjoyed hearing the research done about student health, education, and the physical structure of buildings.

    I also hope there are some changes in the future when it comes to bureacracy and the health care system. Those who are running the system may not understand what is going on at the ground level at all. Because theydo not experience the struggles of juggling redudant paperwork and treating patients everyday, the change we want may be slower than the ideal pace.

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