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The author is a family physician in Tacoma, WA, and a member of the <i>Medical Economics</i> Editorial Board
A reader argues that physicians have been increasingly pushed to the sidelines by other players in the healthcare game.
To: My younger colleagues
From: Richard E. Waltman, MD
Subject: You are being marginalized
The progressive marginalization of physicians can no longer be denied. We’ve come a long way from the time-in my professional lifetime-when physicians were always voted the “most respected profession” and saying you were a doctor got you a good table at any restaurant without a reservation.
But over the years I have watched as our profession has been increasingly pushed to the sidelines by other players in the healthcare game. When did it really hit home for me? Perhaps that day a few years ago when my company began to speak of us as “providers,” not physicians, and we accepted the designation with only the quietest of protests.
Recently my wife went for an ear, nose and throat (ENT) procedure. The title on the door was “Mountain ENT Clinic” and the names of the two physicians who worked there were not displayed. Nor were they on the office business cards. On the way to that office we walked by the Primary Care Clinic and the Gastroenterology Clinic, and in neither location was there any signage indicating the physicians who worked there.
I must admit I was initially a bit embarrassed by the near-reverent way I was treated as a new physician. I recall thinking it a bit much, but over the years I confess I learned to like it. That is over. Now I’m just one of many who work for a large healthcare system. We are no longer the stars of the show, no longer even featured performers, just part of the team.
It’s no longer, “we’ve got the best urologist,” but “we’ve got the best surgical robotics.” And I’m OK with all of this. I still enjoy my work, and I am appreciated and cherished by many of my patients. I just feel obliged to reflect on this major change that is occurring in the way doctors are viewed and treated.
So to my younger colleagues, I repeat: You are being marginalized. Don’t like it? Step up and reestablish your prominence, and your importance in healthcare. Do a great job, and then don’t be shy about talking about it. Make yourself important by the work you do-and let people know.
You don’t mind being marginalized? You like just doing your job and going home, with fewer hours, fewer committees, reduced input, but more free time and less worry? So be it. I respect your choice and wish you much success in this new structure. Things change, after all. Perhaps having a reduced role will work for you.
But whatever happens, take good care of yourselves, take good care of your families, take good care of your coworkers, and most of all, take good care of your patients.
Do you think medicine is still a respected profession, or are doctors being marginalized? Write to us at email@example.com.
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