3 questions doctors should ask themselves in 2014

Next year will be a landmark year for America. Since our Great Recession and its far-reaching effects on the economy, housing markets, jobs, relationships, personal savings, spreading wealth, increasing poverty, divided politics and collapsing health care system, America seems to be purging a lot of karma.

Doctors play a huge role, allowing themselves to become puppets pulled by the purse strings of politicians, conglomerates and a divided country gone wild.

As we spin into the New Year, the question on many doctor’s mind is this: “What am I going to do next year?

If anything, this devastating sweep into every aspect of health care has finally brought a key issue out into the open. Doctors may at this point be questioning why they went into medical practice in the first place. Sure, we all said during our admissions interview that we wanted to help people. But let’s get real. We wanted the money. We wanted the prestige. We wanted to do what our parents wanted us to do. And so we followed, not really understanding what it was we wanted in the first place.

Recently, I’ve met a lot of women who are twenty to twenty-five years post-corporate career. They’ve decided to go into business for themselves. They’re desperately trying to align with their passions, and if they don’t know what that is, they’re desperately searching. They’re sick of the way things are. They want change. They want to be part of change. Better yet, they’re willing to give up a mad pursuit of what they thought was happiness, but really was emptiness.

For doctors, it seems to be a lot harder. There’s more money at stake. There’s ego and power and a false belief that we have to be there to save the world, or no one will do it. There’s a belief that we have to accept everything our health care system demands us to accept, to the point of our own disempowerment and degradation.

Perhaps we believe it’s selfish to consider ourselves and our wants first, to the compromise of our own health and lives. Perhaps it’s the false belief that we’ve invested so much into our careers that we’re too old to change now, and so we just put up with it until the end.

For doctors, it’s the hardest thing in the world to admit that we are indeed human. And second, it’s the hardest thing for us to change.

The first step to change, however, will be to become aware. Part of becoming human again, is to become conscious. And organically, the following questions then emerge.

Who are we? What do we want? What are our real motivations for continuing to work inside corporations or companies who control our lives, and our skills?

We each know the truth. Even if we loathe admitting it, working with companies built upon facades, decrying “We are part of the solution. We are not the problem.” But nevertheless, it’s these same companies which have built up monstrous fortunes upon the degradation of others, contributing to America’s massive wealth gap.

But during these times, we’ve also been paralyzed by our own fears, preferring instead to lie to ourselves that we’re doing just fine. The money is more important right now. We can’t change and make ourselves happy. Our social status and egos must be satiated. When will we be willing to admit the truth to ourselves, as our world implodes?

For 2014, as a fresh new start, I offer these as questions to be asked by each and every practicing physician in America.

  1. Doctor, why do you want to stay in medicine? Tell yourself the truth this time.
  2. Doctor, if you had one wish to do what you really want to do with your life, what would that be?
  3. And doctor, based on your answer in (2) above, why aren’t you doing it now?

Our consciousness in America has been long overdue. It seems that we’ve strayed so far away from the reality of who and what we are as humans. We went so far away, that we began to critically sicken.

This has been witnessed by our willingness to waste trillions of dollars in government website debacles that provide no care, but are simply a botched up way to scrape even more money from America’s youth to pay for a sick care system rather than stand up and do what’s right for our country. And so we spin into a new year with this. Is this what we all want for our future? And if not, what are we willing to do to change?

It comes down once again to you. To me. To us. What will it take for 2014 to be our best year ever in terms of American health care?

Natasha Deonarain is founder, the Health Conscious Movement. She is the author of The 7 Principles of Health and can be reached on Twitter @HealthMovement.

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  • Kenneth Hieke

    I’ll bite. I made the decision to retire after 35 years. Lots of call. Lots of neglecting family. Time to turn my attention to the garden, the grand kids and the bees. Self awareness is 6 days away

    • Steven Reznick

      Best of luck in your next life. Please keep advocating for great care and practice the right way.

  • Anthony D

    A large percentage of doctors will find that they will be unable to
    survive financially…so many have huge loans to repay from their time in school, and with the 6-digit cost of malpractice insurance thrown in,they won’t be able to pay their bills, let alone make an income…it’s simply an extension of what’s going on now with the way medicare/medicaid programs limit what they can charge, making it necessary for them to depend on other patients’ ability to pay and the insurance they carry…which in turn becomes problematic because ObamaCare or any national healthcare program will severely limit those insurance payments, making it then necessary to charge even more to the patients who pay on their own…and there won’t be many, if any, of those anymore…

    • rbthe4th2

      The other gotcha is that those who can afford medical school will be the kids of docs or doc/doc couples. The last study I saw said 30% of docs come from a medical family. If you don’t understand the regular “po” people, you’ll not have a clue what life is like for us.

  • Thomas D Guastavino

    During my last weekend on call I was called tt see a 45 year old male diabetic, history of schizophrenia, on Medicaid who fell and suffered a nasty ankle fracture. After getting through the worsening minefield of medical clearance, finding an OR time, filling out the ever increasing paperwork, and an ex-wife who was insisting on a guarantee of a good result, I finally got the patient to the OR. Once again, I noted that the least stessfull part of the entire enterprise was the actual surgery. The surgery went well with no complications.
    On post-op rounds I walked into an argument between the patient who wanted to go home and the ex-wife who insisted that he go to a nursing home. All I could do is to call a social service consult.
    Dr Deonarain, with all due respect, all the introspection in the world is not going to change the fact that we are dealing with a increasingly hostile work environment. Please dont say it is up to us to affect change, believe me I have tried but we are still losing ground.

    • guest

      It would be simple enough for healthcare systems to hire more clerical staff, care managers and social workers for us to delegate most of these tasks to. But at the end of the day, administrators know that they can count on us to do that work for free, because we are the ones who care about the patient.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    The cost of education in order to become a physician is astronomical. We need to begin to subsidize education, not just for physicians, but all our students, especially those who wish to become doctors, nurses, and teachers. Other nations do this, why can’t we. Well, for one thing the tax code that rewards only the wealthy. Many physicians head for the specialties as those careers are more lucrative than that of a PCP or pediatrician who is a PCP for those under 21. If our PCPs could have a free or low cost education they would not have the horrendous loans to repay. Years ago, many PCPs had the GI Bill to help with their education, plus if they were medics in the Armed Services, and survived, they had medical background to give them a “heads up,” on many of their courses.

    • rbthe4th2

      Would you be willing to pull CMS/Medicare/Medicaid money from GME for that? I think that may be interesting. If someone wants to go into the higher paying specialties, they’d have to pay for it.

  • fatherhash

    for many PCP’s, i wonder if a transition to concierge medicine would answer all 3 questions.

  • buzzkillerjsmith

    I went into medicine because I have no brains, no judgment, no ability to think clearly. I stay in medicine for the same reasons.

    • rbthe4th2

      ROFL. You beat the comment above: “For doctors, it’s the hardest thing in the world to admit that we are indeed human. And second, it’s the hardest thing for us to change.”
      I believe some of what has to do with medicine does require the above. I understand IT people (again from a book) are the worst patients and I can’t understand why, given the above.

  • buzzkillerjsmith

    Ah, Natasha. Your first sentence ruins your whole post. ‘…will be a landmark year for America. ” You do not know that. You do not know that.

    You have fallen for a common fallacy, the idea that you know the future. Read Tetlock. He wrote a wonderful book showing, with data, that political forecasting over much time at all is pointless.

    Upgrade your analytical skills. Write something like, “might be.”

    It is true that many people like bold statements. They’re entertaining and thought-provoking. But they are very likely to be wrong.