Recently, a friend posted a story on my Facebook page: “How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession,” Oh no. “Another article on miserable doctors,” I thought. I’m an expert on miserable doctors. I used to be one. Why should I read this? What could I possibly learn? I decided to ignore it.
The next day another friend posted it. Then another. Okay, now it was assigned reading. I steeled myself and plunged in. Two sentences in, I clicked on sheer unhappiness and I was taken to my own photo. It was above a piece I wrote, “Why Doctors Commit Suicide.” In a way I was honored — officially recognized in the miserable doctors’ hall of fame.
Yes, doctors are overworked. Yes, patients get quickie visits. Yes countless doctors dream of retiring or quitting. Many contemplate suicide, and tragically, some even act on those thoughts. So what’s new? Why isn’t the author writing about solutions? Frustrated, I checked my email. Waiting was a message from Daniela Drake, MD, the piece’s author. She wanted to write a follow-up on solutions, and asked to talk about my work helping doctors create more ideal practices.
“Sure, call now,” I responded. It was midnight. We talked for nearly two hours like best friends who hadn’t spoken in years.
So why aren’t there more solution-oriented articles? I suspect it’s because so few people are talking about the problem. It is, after all, hard to solve a problem nobody knows exists. When patients see us, it’s in such a professional element — white coats, machine-filled rooms, and buzzing activity. Moreover, people visit doctors to learn about their own health. It’s not part of the deal to think about the stresses inherent to the other side of the exchange.
Now that the conversation’s started, however, it seems to me that we we have two choices: We can try to determine what’s wrong by focusing on miserable doctors and their presumably miserable patients. Or we can showcase the happy doctors and patients to find out what they are doing right.
Throw a pity party and see who shows up, or celebrate solutions? It’s time for the latter. Not solutions by experts, consultants, and politicians. Solutions by real physicians who are seeing real patients and feeling real satisfaction from their jobs.
There are many happy docs out there with replicable, innovative models. How many do you know?
Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. This article originally appeared in The Doctor Blog.