Lawmakers shouldn’t care about the personal hardships of doctors

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A response to Dear lawmakers: This is what it’s like to be a doctor today.

With a family and financial background that eerily matches Dr. Moeller’s, please count me as one soon-to-be physician who does not share the notion that lawmakers should spend their time being overly concerned with the demands placed on physicians or physician compensation.  In fact, I find it difficult to imagine how a physician can spend a day caring for sick and dying patients, come home to a loving family and then be primarily concerned about the personal hardships they have had to face in life.

It’s not that the process of becoming a doctor isn’t difficult and worthy of high levels of compensation—most agree that it is– the problem is that, as a health care provider, I have had the privilege of sharing time with patients who’s hardships are significant and more worthy of lawmaker concern than those faced by physicians.

Remember, the benefits of being a physician are numerous.  Not only do we receive high levels of financial compensation—with the average physician in the lowest paying field reportedly earning more than 3 times that of the average American , we are also awarded the privilege of caring for members of society who are often facing extremely difficult circumstances.  Please note my emphasis– the care that we doctors provide is a privilege that society has granted us.  We sign up to do this job not because it is the easiest job or the most lucratively compensated,  rather, we sign up because we desire the privilege of caring for sick members of our community.  We do this job because it is the best, most meaningful job, regardless of compensation and sacrifice.

It’s not that lawmakers should never be concerned about the well-being of doctors—it’s that they should only be concerned when it starts contributing to poor health outcomes of the community.   In general, with the exception of primary care, this is currently not the case.

My hope in responding to Dr. Moeller’s letter is that, rather than lobbying those in power for legislation that only benefit us, we should focus on the duty we have to fight for what is best for our patients.  If we choose to spend our time focusing on what is best for ourselves rather than for our patients, who will advocate for them?  This is a responsibility that we are uniquely qualified to perform and should be the focus of our advocacy efforts.

Life presents challenges for everyone.  As physicians we get to experience some of the most severe challenges life presents to people through the relationships we have with our patients. Through these relationships we should gain an appreciation for how privileged life is for most of us and work tirelessly to improve the lives of the people we care for.

The author is an anonymous medical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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