Hospitals

As hospital costs are cut, will medical workers’ well-being suffer?

I wonder if we’re in danger of stifling fun in medicine. Certainly there are still fun things to do in medicine (ablating a pesky accessory pathway safely, for instance). But as I watch the newly-minted medical school graduates emerge from their long, sheltered educational cocoon, I wonder what their attrition rate will be from medicine […]

I wonder if we’re in danger of stifling fun in medicine.

Certainly there are still fun things to do in medicine (ablating a pesky accessory pathway safely, for instance). But as I watch the newly-minted medical school graduates emerge from their long, sheltered educational cocoon, I wonder what their attrition rate will be from medicine once they see our new more-robotic form of health care community.

There is a social camaraderie in medicine when you train. Maybe it’s the “misery loves company” syndrome. In medical school you stick together through thick and thin because few others understand what you’re going through. You strive for the day when, collectively, you earn the designation of “doctor of medicine.” There’s a strength in numbers.

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But as our work flows become regimented, our geographic coverage areas more dispersed, and our hours more fragmented, I’ve seen the loss of the collegiality of the doctor’s lounge being replaced with the coldness of e-mail blasts. I’ve seen the loss of summer picnics with my colleagues’ families replaced with “Doctor Appreciation Day.” After work get-togethers that included our spouses and kids have long since gone — most of us just want to get back home to regroup for the next day ahead.

As medicine continues on its inevitable cost-contraction course of doing more with less, I hope there continues to be a way to keep the psychological well-being of our health care workforce and their families in mind. Otherwise, the historically long-term career of physicians might become much shorter.

Westby G. Fisher, MD, FACC is a board certified internist, cardiologist, and cardiac electrophysiologist (doctor specializing in heart rhythm disorders) practicing at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, IL, USA and is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine. He entered the blog-o-sphere in November, 2005. He writes regularly at Dr. Wes. DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly the those of the author(s) and should not be construed as the opinion(s) or policy(ies) of NorthShore University HealthSystem, nor recommendations for your care or anyone else's. Please seek professional guidance instead.

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