Those who are interested in the human element of medical care and the emotional rewards that come from interacting with patients might want to consider a career in psychiatry. And that’s only one benefit of entering the field, which is slated to rapidly expand to meet the increase in demand for mental-health services.
We spoke to Dr. Tristan Gorrindo, a practicing psychiatrist and the director of education at the American Psychiatric Association to find out more about the profession.
What does a psychiatrist do?
Psychiatrists are physicians who work to treat disorders that affect the brain, says Gorrindo. “That can span the range from emotional related disorders all the way through substance abuse and other behavioral disorders,” he says.
“They’re really thinking about mental illness in the context of the entire physical body.” They make diagnoses and come up with treatment plans that can include talk therapy, medications or psychosocial interventions.
What schooling do you need to become a psychiatrist?
After completing their undergraduate program, prospective psychiatrists have to take the Medical College Admission Test, and then complete four years of medical school, says Gorrindo.
Then comes a residency in psychiatry, which is a minimum of four years — and that’s only the beginning.
“If they want to specialize in child psychiatry for example, that’s an additional two years, or addictions, that’s another year,” he says.
“I used to tell my family that I was finally going to graduate from 25th grade,” says Gorrindo. “It’s a long road, but a good road.”
What’s the typical salary for a psychiatrist?
The median annual salary for psychiatrist is $187,200 according to the most recent reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made $194,000, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $61,3300.
Is it hard to find employment?
“It turns out the United States has a huge shortage of psychiatrists, so it is not difficult at all to get a job after you complete your residency,” says Gorrindo.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the profession to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, resulting in 4,200 new jobs — which can be attributed to the growing number of patients with mental-health issues.
According to Gorrindo, the best part of psychiatry is that “we still get to spend a significant amount of time with our patients and really get to know them and their life story.
“Many times you’re really connected to your patient for months, or even years, and so getting to see your patients get better, re-engage in the world and get their lives back on track is very rewarding,” he says. “It’s one of the things that I’m most grateful for.”
One of the biggest issues psychiatrists face is the stigma surrounding mental illness, Gorrindo says.
Not only does that keep people from seeking care, but it contributes to inequity in the health-care system.
“Sometimes insurance companies have special sets of rules for treating mental-health conditions that they don’t have for treating more traditional medical illnesses, so we’re constantly having to fight those kind of administrative battles.”