The hospital doesn’t care: Physicians must advocate for themselves

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On Doctors’ Day, my hospital celebrated our work by giving us each a pair of cheap headphones, and also announced the death of an attending. Though the personal risk to each of us was highlighted by the recent death, the administration did not give hazard pay, or PPE comparable to other countries’, or even a guaranteed supply of isolation gowns. Just headphones a different color than the ones they gave two years ago. This is an important reminder: The system does not care about you. You must advocate for yourself.

The hospital is a business. The corporation relies on your guilt and sympathy to ensure you will do more work under less safe conditions for less pay. It does not care about you when it bans surgical masks in the hallways or pretends bandannas count as PPE. It does not care about you when it cuts your pay because the pandemic cuts into your RVUs. It does not care about you when it makes COVID-19 tests hard for physicians to get, and so makes it harder for physicians to take sick leave. The hospital does not care about you. You must advocate for yourself.

The state government does not care about you. You are a resource, not a person. It does not care about you when it encourages older, retired doctors to come back to work, endangering their own lives to do so. Doctors don’t die differently than anyone else. It does not care about you when it cancels limits on duty hours or overrides hospital visitor policies. It does not care about you when it tries to cut Medicaid. The state government does not care about you. You must advocate for yourself.

The federal government does not care about you. You are not the stock market. It does not care about you when it lies about the pandemic or distributes resources based on politics instead of patient burden. It does not care about you when it weighs the value of your work against the value of your student debt. The federal government does not care about you. You must advocate for yourself.

It helps no one to value bravery over safety. If you ignore PPE precautions to help a patient, you can become infected. You could be a minimally symptomatic super-spreader, bringing the disease to your patients and colleagues. You could end up intubated in an ICU. Your safety is important. You are important. We need to take care of each other. We need to advocate for ourselves.

The author is an anonymous physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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