• Sorry, being a doctor is still a great gig

    Monday night, at the Seder we were attending, we all discussed things for which we were thankful. I acknowledged my thanks for my family and friends, and then said that I was very, very grateful to have a job which I found so utterly rewarding and fulfilling. Evidently, Daniela Drake disagrees with me:

    Simply put, being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking. Indeed, many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians—and both physicians and patients are the losers.

    I’m not going to quote her whole piece, but you should feel free to take a minute and go read it. I’ll wait…

    Regardless, she makes some valid points. Physicians are more likely to commit suicide than in many other professions. That is definitely true. But it’s been true for a long time, and her assertion seems to be that the misery of doctors is a recent thing. I don’t think there’s any evidence that suicide is high in the profession because it’s become “miserable”. I’ve discussed this before.

    But most of the piece is a litany of complaints on how “horrible” it is to be a doctor. We don’t get paid enough, so we gravitate to the high-paying specialties. As an academic general pediatrician, I cry BS. She claims physicians want out. I’ve heard that before. I’m still waiting. She declares that fixating on patient satisfaction is wrong. While I agree it’s not the panacea some think it is, it’s hard to argue that having a better patient-doctor relationship is a bad thing. She claims that patient demands are driving doctors to do things they don’t want to do. Evidence says that doctors overestimate that demand.

    For all the talk of a media that “blames” physicians, doctors are among the most respected professionals around.

    I’ve written about this again and again, and I don’t want to repeat myself more than I have to. I think physicians complain far more, and far more publicly, than their situations warrant. For all their complaints, they still do incredibly well financially. They have more professional freedom than most working people. And they’re beloved.

    Moreover, tons and tons of people want to be them. Applications remain at an all time high for medical school.

    These sentiments aren’t new. I’ve been around physicians for all my life, and for the entirety of it, I can remember many of them complaining. I can remember many of them complaining even while they made fortunes, lived fantastic lives, and had fulfilling careers. I remember many of them threatening to quit. None did.

    I imagine that a fairly large number of Americans work just to get a paycheck. They find their jobs to be dull and unfilfilling, should they be lucky enough to have them. Being a doctor is a great gig, and I don’t really know any who would give it up to punch a clock or go do something else. I know some who’d threaten to do so, and some who wish things were better, but the number of them who follow through and abandon the field is near zero. At some point, people are going to ignore the cries of “wolf”. Other than bankers, is there any profession doing so well overall that complains so much in the media?

    @aaronecarroll

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