Why doctors would make good plumbers

I truly enjoy the practice of medicine.  The challenge, the complexity, and the constant evolution, combined with the opportunity to continually, positively, and substantially affect people’s lives should lead to an exciting career.

However, the economics of medicine as a business have sapped much of this enjoyment for everyone involved.

As the government strives to save health care dollars, the hospitals and insurance companies gear up their high priced lobbyists to guide the outcome.  Thus, too often it is the third wheel, the overworked, under-organized, and often politically inexperienced doctors who bear the brunt of the changes.  As those changes accumulate, they place a greater and greater psychological, mental, and physical toll on our nation’s physicians.

Thus it is that many of my friends, who have been brilliant physicians, have left the field for careers as diverse as real estate or fashion designing.  I must admit that at times I have considered leaving as well.  Of course, the problem is that having spent a large portion of our youth training to be physicians, most of us are ill-equipped to be anything else.

When I was considering what else I was at least partially qualified to do, I felt that as an interventional cardiologist, a natural fit may be to train to become a plumber. Of course, leaving my practice and going back to school would likely require going into debt, but that is the same situation most medical school graduates find themselves in.  Unfortunately, there are so many plumbers out there, and so much competition that I would need a truly unique business model to differentiate myself from the rest and be successful.  And so it is that I present to you, my valued readers, my seven point business model for a successful plumbing business:

1. I pledge to be available to treat a plumbing emergency within thirty minutes of being called. Any time, day or night.  I will never charge extra for after hours work.  If you have a clogged drain, I promise it will be open within 90 minutes after calling me.  This holds true even if you can’t or won’t pay me.

2. Once I have fixed something in your house, I pledge to be available or have a similarly qualified plumber available at all times, 24/7/365 for any plumbing related questions you might have.  At no charge.

3. Feel free to use your plumbing any way you like.  Flush a diaper or two.  Pour Drano down if it gets clogged.  Leave the shower running and the drain stopped.  I will fix it.  And if it’s an emergency, see point #1.  Because every person has a right to working plumbing.

4. I will personally take responsibility for all the work I do, and help bear responsibility for anything else that goes wrong anywhere in your house with any system (electrical, HVAC, etc.).  After all, houses are complicated, and everything interacts.

5. In an effort to make sure plumbing services are available to all homeowners, I and the other plumbers in the area will pledge to accept the same fee schedule as each other, which we will allow the government to set at what it deems fair and adjust it yearly.  This holds true even if our costs for tools go up, and the government decides to cut our fees 30% a year.

6. I will only charge you a small portion of your bill.  You may designate a benefactor of your choice to pay the rest.  I will take full responsibility to collect the remaining money from said benefactor.   Even if they refuse to pay or underpay significantly, I will absorb that loss rather than come back to you for the difference.

7. If I feel, in my professional plumbing opinion, that you need a new faucet but the benefactor you choose only wants to pay me to repair the old one, I will either a) replace the faucet at my own expense or b) if I fix the faucet, I will take full legal responsibility should it fail again and flood your entire house.   I will allow the benefactor the right to tell me at any time what they would and would not like to pay for, even after the work is done.

You know, after thinking about it, maybe I won’t change from medicine after all.  This doesn’t seem that much different.

Aamer H. Jamali is a cardiologist and can be reached at the Interventional Cardiology Medical Group.

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