The New York Times has an article up titled “More Physicians Say No To Endless Workdays” (April 2 2011), which features an emergency room physician, the daughter and granddaughter of long-time practicing family physicians. She had originally planned to go into practice with her father in her small hometown, but for several reasons decided to go into ER instead, and after she had twins, she took a salaried position as a part-time ER doc.
Basically, the author explores this cultural shift in medicine: more and more, doctors are turning away from regular practice and more towards part-time or shift work. More and more, doctors want to be able to go home at night, with no risk of being called in, or called, at all. Doctors want a family life, and this may be linked to the fact that more doctors than ever before are women, and moms.
The article is interesting and timely- but what is more interesting to me, and sometimes, frankly, disturbing, are the comments.
The comments attached to an article like this are a window into the room where our patients are talking.
Some comments were supportive of the trend, and they say things like “I say YAY! Good for docs, good for us! I'd rather be seen, whether in an ER or a clinic, by someone who is not overwhelmed, not heading towards burnout, someone who can still love their job because they have time to have a life.” But others says things like, “If an individual who has chosen a medical career as a physician is unhappy with the number of hours s/he must work, I would suggest changing to a position where family time is valued, say as a greeter at a Walmart”.
The opinions range from positive to brutal. One person described the young woman in the article as belonging to “a cadre of physicians who have little interest in putting patients needs before their own.”
Ouch, THAT stung. If I’m a primary care doc and I work part- time, and I value my family and my baby, does that somehow signify that I don’t care about my patients, that I don’t belong in medicine? Could it possibly mean that medicine needs me, needs moms and our viewpoints and experiences? Could it signify that I provide better care, because I have balance and can be present with my patients?
I wanted so much to grab a sympathetic doc and discuss this article, and the way these comments made me feel. And I realized, that’s Mothers in Medicine.
Here is the link to the article and the 51 comments. I want to read YOUR comments!