Friday, January 28, 2005

Being there.

A recent poster wrote this:

"Do you ever find yourself hating your own profession? Do you love it more than you hate it? What made you want to be a doctor in the first place?"

This article answers that question for you. I essentially agree with every word and I oddly feel like I've lived every word of it.

It's not only that the day to day job of being a doctor sucks: constant paperwork, lack of time to actually talk to patients, the telephone, hassles of pharmacies, secretaries, computers, data entry, dictations, letters, follow up labs and studies, and the threat of lawsuits; it's also the fact that I've worked probably 50% harder to get to this point than a comparable profession. I'm not blowing my own horn, but I studied my ass off in college. I kept that up in med school. I've been in the top 10th percentile of national exams taken by all med students and residents. During my internship I worked over 36 hours at a time every 4th day. Some months every 3rd day.

Have you ever worked 36 hours straight? It hurts. It changes you when your pager goes off at 9 AM after you've already been working for 14 hours, and you're trying to get your notes done, and you have to go deal with a patient who wants her diet orders changed. Or having to go off to clinic.

And now I can't stand it. That's why I'm in academics. Here I can sit in my little tower, made of hospital ugly plastic, not ivory like in the anthropology department, and have a life. My clinics are still horrible. The pay sucks, but I refuse to make the jump to practice until it is a last resort. And sometimes I get to do cool stuff, like some research.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

People like you are in a perfect position and state of mind to effect a change in the medical system. I don't mean to bag Americans but the US system seem to be the most torturously dysfunctional compared to the UK or Australia. Having a system that prevents a profession from doing its job and killing its practitioners is hideously insane, and with both doctors and patients disatisfied, and organisations seeing sense in the need for reform, it's a good time to gain support for drastic reforms that uses common sense to lower insurance rates and introduce more efficient job-sharing by enlisting allied-health professionals or training new doctors or modifying the training program. Sometimes lowering the bar is necessary, and more effective at a population level. Get the population to realise first that they can't have unrealistic hopes or expectations and need to accept their fate, ditto with the doctors themselves, we have a program here in Australia where doctors are encouraged to have their own doctors and also have special help progrms for doctors' emotional/sub-stance abuse problem. Limit the third party syphoning of resources for medical practice, i.e. laws to cap insurance and mal-practice compos, so that doctors don't become slaves who work their butts off to little benefit for the patients only so that lawyers and insurance companies suck in the rewards from the doctors and cash in on the mal-practice that came about in an environment that they themselves had a hand in creating.

I don't know if you are passionate enough about this to do something about it, it sounds like you're probably too disillusioned to join a campaign, and I also realise political change in the US or any populus country is much much more difficult than it would be in Australia, BUT when people who can do very little don't do or say the little that they have, THAT is how a country falls, how a profession falls, how a people falls.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

When you say the pay sucks, what is it in relation to?

3:53 PM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

The pay sucks in relation to private practice, which is about 1.5 to 2 times what you make in academics. Being a normal doctor actually doesn't pay that well when you factor in all the suffering you went through to get to the position, especially if you compare it to other skilled professions: law, business, mechanic, electrician. But then again, the grass is always greener.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, by the time that you find out what being a physician is all's too late.

I believe the word 'Doctor' is derived from some gutteral phonation used in the Stone Age. It was used to bestow honor on the schmuck who was about to sacrifice himself for his fellow cavedwellers by becoming the sabertooth tiger's meal. While his last thoughts may have provided the comfort of believing he was performing an appreciated, altruistic act, the others laughed themselves silly at the self-imposed actions of a fool.

11:21 AM  

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