Is your doctor worth more than a plumber?

I asked a group of docs I’m coaching how much they’re worth per hour. Interesting question given docs have 11 or more years of specialized training beyond high school. Surgeons spend most of their 20s and 30s in school. By the time these folks graduate, they’ve got 200K+ med school debt — before the kids, spouse or house. Many docs just don’t have time to develop a social life, fall in love, have children — until their 30s or later!

What’s it worth to have all that training? Where does all that delayed gratification and self-sacrifice lead? Some urgent care jobs pay docs $75/hour. Of course, patients want to see doctors for a $20 copay. Is that all we’re worth?

When I asked docs to tell me what they’re worth, many refused to respond. Why? Confusion, overwhelm, low self-worth? Maybe most doctors have been devalued for so long, they just have no idea what they’re worth.

Those who responded were all over the map. DC Psychiatrists charge $600 per hour. A Colorado family doc is $200/hr. One in Louisiana charges $100. As a reference, a family nurse practitioner in Alaska bills at $466/hr and a med student in California claims he’s worth $600. So what’s the truth? How much are you worth per hour? (This is not an optional question. You really do need to know.)

Reality check: let’s compare doctors to plumbers. Much shorter training and tuition costs. Just a year at a community college post-GED/high school. Then (depending on location), two to five years of paid apprenticeship before getting licensed. And what do plumbers charge? I just had a guy fix my toilet tank. Took 15 minutes. I paid $125. A gynecologist in Washington state pays her 26-year-old plumber $350/hr for emergencies.

Plumber liability insurance is usually less than $1K annually. Compare that to a family doctor at 10K+ or neurosurgeon 100-200K+ yearly. Just for professional liability insurance. Before a patient even walks in the door.

So is a plumber in Washington worth three-and-a-half times as much as a family doc in Louisiana?

What do you think?

What would you pay for an hour with a doctor?


As I’m publishing this (no joke), my landlord calls to tell me my office bathroom is flooding. I rush down to assess the damage. Not bad. Maybe all pricing is relative to need and urgency.

Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Physician Suicide Letters — Answered and Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. She hosts the physician retreat, Live Your Dream, to help her colleagues heal from grief and reclaim their lives and careers.

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