Physician attitudes and work habits are changing, but then so is medicine

LETTER — Posted Feb. 23, 2004

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Your article about younger physicians (Article, Feb. 2) points out some relevant issues regarding changes occurring within the profession and a realignment of physicians' priorities.

It is true that personal time is more important to younger doctors and that younger doctors are not as hardworking. There are both positives and negatives associated with these changes.

However, the article totally neglects one of the most relevant points about the change in professional behavior to me. With declining reimbursement and physician income and increasing responsibilities placed on the physician by both patients and insurers, it no longer is worth it to many of us to be always available to our patients.

My bottom line is that I just don't make enough money to be available to my patients 24/7. Also, it is just no longer a necessity for the patient. Most patients now expect to have care provided by a group of physicians rather than one individual. Most small-town hospitals and ERs are now nothing more than staging areas and triage centers for the tertiary care facilities. My patients seem to prefer it that way.

The world is changing, and medicine will change along with it. The old days are gone, so we should stop whining about how good they were. Each of us will make decisions about how we will (if possible) continue to provide good care to our patients and live a satisfactory professional life.

Todd B. West, MD, Calhoun, Ga.

Editor's note: Dr. West is a 39-year-old family physician.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/02/23/edlt0223.htm.

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