KevinMD has been the blogging guru of almost all the young medical bloggers out there. I am no exception. I have been reading Kevin Pho’s blog ever since he wrote it on blogspot with a grid-focus theme. Of late, his blog has become a mishmash of ideas, with a cornucopia of bloggers writing on his site – a la Huffington Post.
The latest post is also by a blogger I have been reading since I started blogging myself: Skeptical Scalpel (notice the similarities in the names?) and is called: Why the future of Medicine is not looking too good. The title is an instant eye-ball grabber and it grabbed my attention as well. The healthy number of comments that have sprung up in the comments section also proves that many people were taken in by the title and agree with the author. However, I choose to disagree with the fatalastic outlook that the future of Medicine is doomed.
The premise of the post is an article in the American Medical News based on a survey by the physician recruiting company Merritt & Hawkins. In short, the following options were presented to residents who finished training and were looking for a practice in 2011:
Question: What is the most important thing concerning residents finishing training and looking for a practice in 2011?
a. Feeling of insufficient medical knowledge
b. Health system reform
c. Educational debt
d. Availability of free time
e. Dealing with patients
Now the author seems mortified by the fact that the residents mostly chose to give a higher weightage to the option d. Availability of free time over the others.
A lot of the commenters have also been shocked and have said stuff like if they wanted more time to enjoy life they should have been looking at other professions and stuff, but I believe these are all knee jerk reactions from the same people who look down on physician hour restrictions that have been in place of late.
In my opinion, the very fact that a physician recruiting company was conducting the survey is a huge source of confounding and bias for the responders. To be honest I have never filled out such a survey but am of the opinion that rather than profess my worries about dealing with patients with them, I would stress on getting a work environment that I would feel empowered in.
Just because the residents do not admit to having qualms about dealing with patients or feeling insufficiently educated on a physician-recruiter survey does not mean anything. It might as well be an expression of the “gunner” mentality we are asked to inculcate in med school where rather than admit our weaknesses we go for stressing on our strengths.
What I am saying is that just because they chose to have an easier work environment as the top option in a recruiter survey does not mean that the world of Medicine is about to get raptured. It does not mean the future is bleak and hopeless. It does not mean we are spawning cyborgs who place self before patients. It means nothing, essentially. Since the days of yore doctors have been pining for time off. In books like The House of God, which is probably contemporary for the Skeptical Scalpel-bearer, the work stress and the desire to escape from them is clearly portrayed in every chapter. So did that mean that our predecessors were poor physicians and the world of medicine came crashing down? Of course not. In any case, this has been one of the demands of our profession and placing it at the top in a survey run by a physician recruiting agency (yes, I know I am saying it once too often, but I believe it is a very, very important cog in the whole wheel of the future of medicine going down the drain debate) shows nothing but the fact that physicians are still running short on time for themselves and their families. That despite hour restrictions, we are still worked more than most other professions.
And the future of Medicine may be endangered by a number of other factors, but DEFINITELY not because of the results of a survey…