Reflecting on the state of the healthcare system in the United States brings many to consider better constructs to aid those that are sick and ailing. But, how often do we reflect on the state of our physician’s and their treatment working within this system?
This mock job announcement below will make you think critically about the education, wages, and labor conditions present in this diverse industry.
Mock Job Announcement
WANTED: A licensed doctor that has completed fours years of an undergraduate, four years of medical school, a residency program, and is board certified within their specialty.
REQUIRED SKILL SET: Above average intelligence, highly competitive, skilled in science and the arts, compassionate, empathetic, strong, does not require sleep, highly alert and observant, excellent memory, ability to witness impossibly traumatic events, maintain composure, articulate, patient, kind, generous, humble, confident, never having to void or require food intake, never show weakness, brave, know everything at all times, demonstrate complete control, and above all else have a firm sense of humanity.
DISCLAIMER: Many doctors view their profession as a vocation and not a career. This calling should never be tarnished with bad behavior or human mistakes. Once this understanding is damaged, there is a process of out casting by peers and patients. There are certain unspoken rules and regulations that are imposed by the medical community that is up to the physician to figure out. If the physician fails to identify these unidentified rules, they are at risk of professional alienation. These expectations are put in place from the time the person enters medical school until the time the physician decides to stop practicing medicine. Doctors must maintain an impeccable reputation in order to survive the field of medicine.
HAZARDS OF THE JOB: Physicians must have super human abilities. There is a high risk of urinary tract infections, malnutrition, high level of fatigue, and depression. An increase of car accidents and the possibility of medical errors may occur. Physicians that are fallible and have demonstrated any sign of ambivalence is considered a form of weakness. These physicians will be chastised by colleagues and be seen as a betrayal to their profession. There is limited support for when the physician is in need of psychosocial, legal, and financial resources. Any semblance to a personal life is often lost or extremely strained.
EARNINGS AND BENEFITS: The fact that a physician is able to save a life is the ultimate benefit of practicing medicine. Not all physicians make the same money or work the same hours and this disparity between specialties’, are often cause for resentment among doctors. All physicians are tired, hungry, sad, confused, stressed, underpaid, or overworked, but the difference is the work/life balance. Internists are paid less than neurosurgeons, radiologists, and cardiovascular surgeons, which means they tend to focus on how under appreciated they are within their field. At the same time, internists are quick to point out that at least they are not as underpaid as pediatricians and family practice doctors. A physician can expect to earn anywhere from $174,000 to $413,000 depending on their specialty. Specialties that are more procedure based will make more money while specialties that are more maintenance based are the least paid. It would be misleading to believe that medicine is a career to get rich.
WORKING CONDITIONS: The average workweek will consist of 60-80 hours. The taste of coffee, strong brewed caffeinated tea, or any energy drink should be at the physician’s disposal at all times. A pleasant and uplifting work environment from colleagues is rare. Physicians are the ultimate authority in patient care, which means they should be expected to be pulled in all directions at all times. A constant sense of unease will ensue by the physician due to the possibility of malpractice suits, which could lead to sanctions, retrieval of their license, and professional ridicule.
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A physician must decide between two work settings: a hospital setting (Condition A) or an office environment (Condition B).
Condition A: The physician should expect to never sit down and to wear comfortable shoes in order to avoid arch disfigurement. All meals will be eaten, if at all, during a lecture or typing notes in patient’s charts. The only time to void is in between visiting patients, bites of food, or typing notes. If the physician’s specialty brings in copious amounts of funding, their worth to the hospital is increased. If the physician’s specialty does not bring in large amounts of resources (money) they will be under-valued and over-worked. All of the physician’s support staff will be provided by the hospital, but the physician has no say in the hiring process. The physician’s medical malpractice insurance is covered by the hospital, but the student loan debt is the responsibility of the physician. If the hospital is a teaching institution, the physician must train subordinates, publish several articles a year, and conduct research. The physician must be available (on call) 24 hours a day for one to two weeks every month. This requires the physician to be only 30 mins away from the hospital.
Condition B: The physician is expected to be running from room to room with no clear understanding of the patient’s condition. Each visit with the patient is monitored and tallied so that the insurance companies compensate for quantity and not quality. All meals must be eaten in between patients and typing in charts, and making calls. The physician must void when there is a lull in the office. If the physician is the owner of the office, they are expected to have a firm understanding of business. The physician must learn the ordering of supplies, equipment, and medical billing. If the physician is successful enough, an office manager can be hired. The doctor often maintains a strong sense of anxiety, since ALL expenses are the physician’s responsibility. If the office is a solo practice, the physician must triple check everything. The physician must be on call at all times through an answering service or divide the time on call with fellow partners. By being on call, the physician must only be 20-30 minutes away. If the patient needs to be hospitalized, the physician must assist with the admission process.
ADVANCEMENT POSSIBILITIES AND EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK: Only a physician can critique a fellow physician. The training process of a physician is a rite-of-passage. Once the physician completes all the militant requirements that each doctor must endure, and then they are considered worthy of advancing in their career. Physicians are expected to never voice their frustrations, fears, and confusion towards medicine. Achieving a medical degree is a badge of honor and a privilege to obtain. Physicians must always look at their profession as a calling and place themselves above any other career. Once this outlook is embraced, the physician is able to locate other physicians that can push their way through the hierarchy of their specialty. It is important to remember that in order not to seem too arrogant, the physician must either maintain the idea of humility or learn to play the part of martyr.