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Viewpoint: Another reason why healthcare system needs reform
Many patients complain about the apathetic behavior and lack of compassion on the part of their doctors. The job of the physician is not just to cure their patients but to also care about their health and show empathy. Yet, it seems that more and more physicians are always in a hurry to go to their next patient and spend less time with the ones they are currently doctoring. Are their actions justifiable?
Physicians are busy, and they are tired. They have spent at least seven years in training after their undergraduate years, and many are trying to pay off their six-figure debt. In addition, most physicians must see a more-than-optimal level of patients, as internal medicine doctors are scarce in many parts of the country. Congress capped the number of residency positions supported by the federal government 15 years ago to keep the supply and demand of doctors in balance. However, the demand seems to far exceed the supply. Congress attempted to pass a bill this past March that would increase the number of residency positions by 15,000 over 5 years. This bill would have countered the Association of American Medical Colleges’ prediction that the United States will face a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2020.
Since this bill did not pass, nothing is being done to counter the increasing shortage of doctors. The lives of doctors won’t be getting any easier. In fact, they will probably be getting harder since their shortage numbers are increasing. So do doctors have a right to be anything short of compassionate with their patients? We know that many physicians are overworked, especially in areas where their access to physicians is difficult; however, this also means they are compensated more for their work. Most doctors are about thirty years old when they are finally licensed to practice on their own, and they can they can finally begin paying off their loans. However, when people apply to and enter medical school, they are fully aware of what they must go through to become a physician and have chosen this lifestyle for themselves.
Still, studies show that doctors are not immune to depression or psychological issues. Somewhat ironically, doctors have alarmingly high suicide rates. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that “male physicians have a 70% higher suicide rate than males in other professions” and that “female physicians die by suicide at a 400% higher rate than females in other professions.” As patients, we forget that doctors can suffer from the same problems they treat. However, this should not be an excuse for physicians to act unprofessionally. If doctors have personal problems, they should deal with them on their own time, perhaps by taking a few weeks off. Patients are compensating the doctors for their time and deserve the full care they are paying for. Clearly, the medical system needs to be reformed in the United States for both physicians and patients.