The Reality of Being a Doctor in India – Only the Hard Facts & Truth

In this letter a senior middle aged govt. doctor is expressing his anguish and frustrations on the increasing incidence of attacks on young doctors. In this letter the doctor directly addresses the public and explains how tough is the professional life a doctor. The aim is to raise awareness against such attacks on doctors.

If you are a young budding doctor, then let me warn you from the beginning that this post will open up many bare realities of being a doctor or health professional in India. It might shatter many romantic ideas that you may be having by bringing practicality to them.

But this post will also help you in preparing yourself for the times ahead that you are going to face as a doctor or a health professional in the second largest populated country in the world.

Now that I have given you the heads up let’s get in the article. 

I grew up in an environment where many of my relatives are doctors. Since my school days, I used to hear that being a doctor is the best profession. You get to heal people, you get heaps of respect, and in the process, you also make adequate money.

Now, what is there not to like about this explanation? I was hooked on it. From that day, I devoted all my youth in completing all the tasks that would make me a perfect doctor. I will also admit that I am idealistic and saw this profession as a tool to help people.

At present, I am in my late forties, and I have been working as a Govt. Doctor for the past 15 years. In all these years I have seen the profession grow and evolve from very close proximity. I am still part of that system.

Violence Against Doctors
Violence Against Doctors

This article is also in response to the ever increasing incidences of attacks on doctors and health professionals by the public/mob. In the last recorded incidence, a young Senior Resident was attacked by a group of patient relatives. In the assault, the young doctor lost the vision in one of his eyes and was in ICU for days. Now the young doctor feels humiliated and unprotected. Via this post, I am also trying to express his anguish and frustration like many other doctors.

My appeal to the readers of this story:

I am a physician for the last 15 years working in rural areas. I have dedicated my entire youth and middle age for the service to the poor just like many other doctors. 

But seeing how the physicians in the Govt. sector, as well as the private sector, are being treated, I feel helpless.

I am an ordinary person who is trying to do his best to make this world a little better. But I feel helpless seeing the problems and dangers our young doctors are facing. Through this article, I want to mention the sacrifices that a doctor does so that he can be of use to the general public. 

But at the same time, we do not want their abuses and bricks or sticks that give us broken nose, broken leg, broken hand and most importantly a broken spirit.

All the doctors want in return is respect, appreciation & dignity.

I hope that if a citizen is reading this letter, then, he/she would say good thanks to the doctor and pledge to keep him/her safe.

What does it take to be a Doctor or a Health Professional in India?

Agree or not India is a country of poor. There are millions of people devoid of basic education and medical care. At the same time, due to an ever-increasing population, the strain on the resources is extreme. This high-pressure situation is also applicable to the process of being a doctor in India. We doctors know it, but let us state the points for the general public to know:

  • To be a doctor a student preferably needs to get a govt. Or private medical/dental/health professional seat. (by clearing tough exams like NEET)
  • One needs to get a rank out of millions of students trying for it. If you do get rank then welcome to the medical college. Many students in their dreams to be a doctor attempt the exams for 4 to 5 years and then make the exams. So, before even starting the education half of their youth is over.
  • After entering the college begins the grueling five years of books, patients & exams. In a govt. Medical college the average OPD per day will be around 5000 minima. So, there is not even time to have some proper fun.
  • By the time a medical student reaches the final year, he/she would be working a minimum of 12 hours a day (excluding the classes and exam preparation). 


    • Many professionals in other professions will claim that they also work for 12 hours or more. But imagine working this long for people who are ill & emotional and also imagine trying to reduce their pain- anxiety. On top of that, the majority of these people will be poor and illiterate. A medico not only needs to treat them but also explain them everything about disease and medicine. The sick patients have to be told when and how to take the medication? Imagine doing this counseling for thousands of patients every week. That is more than the number of calls a BPO/Call center worker takes in a whole month.
Violence against doctors
No Rest for a Young Doctor
  • Once the young doctor reaches houseman ship, many might think things will get easier! But on the contrary, it gets even harder. Responsibility increases ten times more. The young intern is bombarded with cases in all the departments he/she is posted. It’s true that it is the time to learn and most of the interns take up the challenge to improve their skills of diagnosis and treatment. 
  • In all these efforts, the medico is now nearing 30, and he/she still needs to plan the career.

  • Then starts another herculean effort to crack the entrance exam for post-graduation. Among thousands of medicos, dental surgeons, and health professionals, only 2 % will get an entry into Govt. post-graduation. 


    • Once you gain entry into post-graduation, then the game just gets more intense. During my post graduation days, I had worked for around 15 hours every day including night shift. The logic that went around was being a PG it was your duty. The pay was minimal, but till that time there was no monetary motivation for most of the doctors. It was the will to do some good and being appreciated/respected for your efforts.
    • Then the doctor (PG or General practitioner) finally gets into the professional career as a physician in a Govt. or Private sector. All the recruits (who are also known as Senior Residents) are drafted to some of the poorest and remote areas you can think of. Places where it is a luxury to find electricity, water or even a toilet.

      Violence against doctors
      A young doctor in a rural area
    • But the young doctor adapts to those conditions and starts providing his/her services to the poor.
  • Can you please tell me how many so-called engineers, ploiticians or other professionals go to these rural areas at the beginning of their career? Most of them just want an excellent salary package or go abroad. Where is their social responsibility? Don’t they have any responsibility towards India? Is working to help the poor section in India only the responsibility of doctors, army/defense personnel, and few limited beaurocrats?

  • In all these years at the Govt. or Private set up the doctors/dental surgeons and health professionals are always at risk of contracting diseases like tuberculosis / HIV from patients. Why? Because of the enormous number of patients every day it is simply not possible to carry out screening tests and proper medical history for every patient. If you get posted in the rural area, then there are no kits or facilities to do these tests. You need to treat the patient putting yourself at risk.
  • The doctor to patient ratio is dismal. As per official statistics, for every 5000 patients,  there is one doctor/health professional. Can you even begin to imagine the workload on the doctors/health professionals? 
  • What is the pay for all these life long efforts? After all, the doctor also needs some dignity and finance to run his family. The salary is average that will keep increasing with experience. But it is nowhere near his/her friends who are earning five times more working half the time at some air-conditioned MNC office.

    Low Pay compared to the Working Conditions

So, in spite of:

  • All the long years of studying (around 14 years in total),
  • Insufficient pay in comparison to others & difficult conditions to work in (doctors are most susceptible to contract infectious diseases from patients)
  • Staying away from home in some remote area with no essential comfort.
  • Getting transferred from one rural area to another.
  • Carrying out duty to help others irrespective of whatever situation or emotion a doctor is in.
  • Sacrificing family life.
The young doctor is still struggling to make a proper life for himself/herself.

The article continues in the next slide. 

In the next slide, we are going to raise some direct questions and is it worth to be a doctor in a country like India

In this article, we are discussing what it really to be a doctor in India and what are the various problems faced by young doctors and health professionals.

In the last slide, we discussed that it takes more than a decade for a doctor/health professional to be fully qualified as a specialist. By this time the individual is nearing thirties and has already crossed. Barring a few most of the doctors at this point in their career and life go through a professional confusion. They see their other friends who had opted for engineering and management courses doing well for themselves while the doctors are still struggling to make a mark. Every doctor or health professional has

  • dedicated all the long years of studying (around 14 years in total),
  • insufficient pay in comparison to others & difficult conditions to work in (doctors are most susceptible to contract infectious diseases from patients)
  • been staying away from home in some remote area with no essential comfort.
  • got transferred from one rural area to another.
  • been carrying out the duty to help others irrespective of whatever situation or emotion a doctor is in.
  • been sacrificing family life and much more

“Why do you think Doctors still keep doing their duty?”

“What can be their motivation?”

I guess you are still trying to comprehend all the points mentioned above.

Maybe you are trying to be in denial that it takes that much efforts and sacrifices to be a health professional.

Perhaps you think they do it all to earn money.

(People tend to forget that not every doctor is a multimillionaire. Many doctors keep working for years with just the core earnings to run their family)

Maybe you think that they chose this life and they must do so.

Whatever be anyone’s thoughts, it doesn’t matter. We doctors do not care what anyone thinks. We do our duty just like a soldier who stands at the border defending the country without bothering who is thinking what.

The only motivation for all the young & old doctors working all over India in harsh conditions is to provide care to the people who need it. To do something good and make a positive impact. They take pride in providing proper treatment.

Finally, the biggest motivation is to be appreciated and respected for their efforts to help unknown people.

(By the way how many people you have helped till today whom you did not even know? Ask yourself)

Money as motivation comes secondary just as a means to run their own family.

And believe me, there was a time when the public (wealthy and poor) respected the doctors. They understood and appreciated the fact that someone is willing to stay in their remote, undeveloped locality to provide them the health care.

But sadly, in my last 15 years of career as a Govt. doctor, I have seen this respect now been kicked into the ground. The appreciation has reduced to none.

The patients do not give a hoot about the efforts a doctor is putting.

They do not care if a physician has left all the comforts of a comfortable private hospital and has decided to help them by being at their remote location.

Whatever a doctor may do, the patient just thinks that we are doing it for money.

And as for money, we have very little compared to the work & sacrifices we do every day.

The appreciation and respect were the only two points driving many doctors like me.

But, those points are long gone.

The New Reality

Do not Scare Away the Young Talented Doctors who want to Help

I may be in the middle of my career but think about the young doctors who have just started their career as physicians. They are eager to serve the public, but they are also the most vulnerable ones.

Violence against doctors

If they keep seeing public attacking doctors, making fun of them and belittling their dignity, then that day won’t be far when no talented young doctor will be willing to join Govt. job or private job and serve people in the remote areas of India. 

And do not expect the established senior doctors who are doing well in the cities to come to your rescue.

Dear public, only a young talented doctor who is willing to make his/her mark as a medical practitioner will be eager to come to a rural or remote area.

So, it is in best interests of the general public to treat such young doctors with respect so that more and more young doctors will be motivated to join the Govt. or private Service and provide health care to remote areas/villages in India.

If doctors keep getting attacked, job or no job, no doctor will be ready to serve the public.

In that way:

At least they will not be attacked.  

At least they will not lose an eye or a hand in the attack

At least they will not suffer the pain or the humiliation.

At least they will be mentally and physically fit to look for their employment in some other safer environment.

Yes, this change is not going to happen overnight. But every change is always gradual.

Neither public or the Govt. should take doctors for granted.

Violence against doctors

I have seen and felt a growing dissent among young doctors.

They question me why to take so much stress, sir? What’s the point when we are scared someone will beat us up anytime within the hospital and go scot-free? What if we damage our limbs in the attack?

I can see the fear creeping into the minds of these young doctors!

But every day they fight this fear, wear their apron and reach the hospital to help the public.

That’s what doctors and health professionals do.

I end this article with an appeal to help and support young doctors.

Before I end this article, let me state some points:

  • I am a Govt. doctor for the past 15 years with vast experience in working in rural areas all over India. I have been to the countryside where you would not even find proper roads. So, I am well experienced and within my capacity to explain the situation.
  • This post is not about blaming anyone. Not the Govt. or the public. This post is to raise awareness for doctors and also in public for the safety of the doctors.
  • When I mention physicians in this article for convenience, I am also referring to allied health professionals who work in the rural area along with the doctors. Without their help, no doctor can even last a single day professionally in remote areas.
  • If you are a young doctor or health professional reading this article, then the aim of the article is to inform you regarding the changing scenarios. It will help you in not forming romantic and false assumptions about being a doctor. It will make you more practical as a doctor, and in the current times, you need to have a reasonable mind to exist and succeed.