Doctors used to be among the most admired and respected persons in the community; now just a mention of this formerly revered title in a social setting will generate a totally different response.
Patients far too often will pour out stories of traumatic healthcare experiences, insults suffered, acts of disrespect or poor bedside manners, and disappointments in a system and in doctors who let them down. Doctor bashing has become a national sport.
The fact is the training, knowledge, skills and professionalism of physicians is just as high now, if not higher, than in the old days when everyone bragged about and loved their doctors. A major shift is that in this era of patient rights and empowerment, doctors are held much more accountable and often have not been proactive in responding to this higher standard.
As a result, many physicians today are demoralized because they have less time with patients, more demands and requirements, mounting stress and declining reimbursement, exacting public scrutiny, and a climate of negativity.
I am more than convinced that the physicians who love their work and are committed to doing the best for each and every patient outnumber by far the uncaring, money-focused minority. These physicians are valued and respected and bring all their energy to focus on their efforts to do the very best for us.
The vast majority of my fellow physicians also are striving to improve their skills and elevate their practice by engaging in improvement initiatives. They know full well that self-development will benefit them personally:
- They will strengthen their reputation in the community for outstanding care and service as a matter of professional pride.
- They will attract new patients and retain a loyal patient following.
- They will maximize reimbursement and pay based on CAHPS scores.
- They will renew their passion for medicine and helping patients despite an atmosphere of stress and pressure.
- They recognize that the individual physician is better served by collaborating and teaming with others than by going it on their own.
Those who feel healthcare is getting a bad rap and are tired of doctor bashing should:
- Have the courage to speak up and promote the positives about our system, hospitals, and providers.
- Continue to express compassion to friends and family who have suffered disappointments with their healthcare providers without joining the bash. The blameless apology works really well. “I’m so sorry you had such a painful experience.”
- Promote empathy for the challenges physicians face. Help to educate others about the pressures on physicians in today’s turbulent environment.
- Thank, appreciate and recognize those physicians who exemplify the Hippocratic Oath and are truly patient-centered in their approach.
- Do your part in making your organization a caring community in which everyone, including physicians, feels supported.
Physicians need to proactively market themselves as the caring, highly-skilled professionals that we are. We can reduce the bad rap by aggressively making the truth known to patients, decision-makers and opinion-makers.
Healthcare is getting a bad rap because satisfied consumers and health professionals are silent. What we need is less noise and more truth. Truth can set us free and can free the medical profession from the burden of negative public opinion.
Carla J. Rotering is vice president, physician services, Leebov Golde Group. She is the co-author of The Language of Caring Guide for Physicians: Communication Essentials for Patient-Centered Care.