Survey: Most Doctors Would Choose Another Career If They Could

by webadmin on September 16, 2013

DFT-thumb2As healthcare executives, one of your greatest challenges is quite possibly having good communication with your doctors. Unfortunately, there can be a gulf between the C-suite and the medical suite.

Take a second, then, and think about some of the physicians who are working the floors as you read this. Maybe one or two of them have worked for you for years. Maybe a few are new. Maybe some are rapidly approaching retirement.

What do you think is going through their minds as they tackle their daily tasks? Do you think they like their jobs? Do you think they find them fulfilling and rewarding?

Chances are, a large percentage of them do not.

A recent survey from personal finance site NerdWallet, reported on by Kathy Kristof of CBS Moneywatch, found that fewer than 50 percent of all physicians “would choose a career in medicine if they were able to do it all over again.”

One of the main reasons for this dissatisfaction was the cumbersome loads of paperwork doctors must sift through every day.

Christina Lamontagne, vice president of health at NerdWallet, told Marketwatch,

“Administrative tasks account for nearly one-quarter of a doctor’s day. With additional liability concerns and more layers in healthcare, we can understand the drain this takes.”

But there were other reasons why doctors aren’t happy, namely school debt, in spite of the high salaries of most physicians. Actually, those high salaries, mostly in the six-figure range, don’t benefit the physicians until a decade after they’ve already been practicing, because those 11 to 14 years of education have crippled them financially.

Kristof explains, “That lost decade of work costs a cool half-million dollars, if you assume this individual could have earned just $50,000 annually, and the typical medical-school candidate is smart and successful enough to earn considerably more. Add in the time and cost it takes to pay off medical-school debt and a dissatisfied physician may well consider pursuing medicine a $1-million mistake. (This assumes the average $166,750 medical school debt takes 30 years to repay at 7.5 percent interest — a total cost of $419,738.)”

The salaries of primary-care physicians, in particular, are so low they barely surpass what the PCP has amassed in debt, Kristof continues, and the study discovered “the least satisfied physicians are those who go into internal medicine.” The hours they work are a drag, the pay stinks and is only decreasing for most of them, leaving the majority of internal-medicine physicians to say they would never choose this specialty again if they had the choice.

Here, Lamontagne draws an interesting comparison: “The frustrations that patients have about not getting enough time with their doctor is mirrored by the frustration their doctors have with not having enough time to spend with their patients”

The study also found orthopedic surgeons have it the best when it comes to pay: $405,000 on average; neurologists, ironically enough, are the happiest, as are oncologists. Most of these specialists do not regret having chosen their path in life.

The pay of radiologists is being gutted, cardiologists are being overworked and are also seeing pay cuts, while emergency doctors are mixed about their specialty choice.

“Across all specialties, physicians see roughly 13 patients per day, work 52 hours per week and earn an average of $270,000,” Kristof writes. “However, family and emergency doctors see nearly 75 percent more patients than anesthesiologists.”

As healthcare executives, what is your reaction to these findings? Is there anything the C-suite can do for the medical suite that isn’t being done right now to help doctors find their careers rewarding again? How do dissatisfied physicians affect the patient experience and the overall morale of your medical staff?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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