Over the past few years that I was in clinical practice I saw the decline of respect for our profession coming at me in the distance like a thunderstorm moving to shore from across the sea. We went from a (relatively) highly revered position with a few perks (doctor’s lounge, physician parking, once a year doctor appreciation dinners) to being treated like a glorified clerk seated behind a computer screen documenting necessary bullet points for reimbursement and doing anything necessary to improve our Press Ganey scores. Some of us happily “jumped through the hoops” and “took one for the team” to keep the status quo and keep conflict at a minimum.. A few (including myself) finally jumped ship and moved on to less fulfilling roles outside of the traditional clinical practice that we loved.
If you are not acutely aware, physicians, in general, are pleasers. We want to help. We want to cure. We did not go to medical school for financial reasons.
In fact, in 2007 in Primary Care I earned ONE TENTH of what my many of finance colleagues earned.. We did not go to medical school for the glory. We went to medical school because we had a drive to solve problems and to help. It is our purpose. We will fight, at our own expense, to do what we feel is right, what is just, and what saves the most lives.
However, in this pursuit of honorable virtue we have given up the very tools we need to successfully complete our jobs. We did not stand up to administrators who forced us to see more patients in less time. We did not stand up to ridiculous metrics that treated us as producers and the patient as “clients”. We allowed non-clinical individuals to step in and remove the attributes that make us special- the compassion, the personal interaction, the LOGICAL INDEPENDENT thought process.
We allowed them to change us from being physicians to being PROVIDERS.
But this is not new! If you have picked up a journal or read social media, you are already aware of the battle with physician extenders encroaching and the degradation of the clinical visit with government mandated regulations and paper-less paperwork.
Thanks to a tiny bit of spiky, enveloped RNA, our profession has been called to task. As our country and possibly our world face economic failure and terrifying disease, the same people who have disrespected and mistreated us are demanding that we take center stage and again do what is right. They want us to solve the problem. They want us to save their grandparents. They want us to make this go away so they can be normal again. They ask us to use our skills and our gifts to keep alive the very hospitals that discarded us just months ago. And will we do it?
Hell, yes, we will, because we are built to do it. It is who we are.
Here is where things get trickier. We should NOT be doing it for FREE!!! Our sacrifice is being seen as expected instead of respected. Short of a few “HEALTHCARE HEROES” memes absolutely NOTHING is being offered in return. Are you being paid more? No. Are you being cared for? No. Are you even being given the common courtesy of proper PPE? NO!
Yesterday’s $2TRILLION of assistance does not offer ANY aid to the ONLY PEOPLE in the world who can actually help the problem.
It does offer substantial benefits to the hospitals, the elected officials, and a variety of random services not related to the pandemic. As an extra kick in the teeth, you don’t even get the one time lump sum payment to help pay for quarantining your children away from you by staying in a motel when you aren’t working or buying your own PPE because some fool stole the supply from the ED.
Your investment bankers, lawyers, and hospital administrators are not on the front lines and they certainly are not doing ANYTHING for free. As much as it pains us to not help, I encourage you to be as vocal as possible and stand your ground. Putting your health at risk is not worth it. Demand proper PPE. Demand an increase in pay. Most of all, demand the respect that you are LONG OVERDUE!
HAPPY NATIONAL PHYSICIANS WEEK!
Samantha Brown Parks, MD, MPH