Problems of modern medical life prove younger doctors' dedication

LETTER — Posted March 15, 2004

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Regarding "Younger doctors less dedicated, hardworking?" (Article, Feb. 2): I am a 37-year-old board-certified orthopedic surgeon in private practice for almost seven years. My fellow younger physicians and I are just as committed and devoted as our senior colleagues.

I can't remember the last time my senior partner or associate was up all night taking care of a trauma. The drive and dedication of my colleagues is as strong if not stronger than any time in our history of medicine. When my father went into medicine, physicians were respected in the community and could look forward to years of gratifying service with reimbursement appropriate for the job.

Today young men and women go into medicine in spite of the knowledge that patients don't trust or respect you, they refer to you as "the rich doctor" and you are a constant target for litigation, many times by the uninsured who are looking for the "lottery" and to whom you have likely provided your services for free.

You are bombarded with complaints about the $20 co-pay as excessive, yet the $50 the plumber requires just to talk with you is reasonable. Furthermore, poor management, inefficiency and increasing bureaucracy of hospitals create impediments for physicians to provide good care.

The time, energy and liability is enormous. Many young physicians wonder if they will be able to feed their families, pay off their student loans, pay their staff and keep their office doors open.

Older physicians who say younger doctors have a poor work ethic or less devotion also seem to forget that the quantity of time spent practicing medicine does not correlate with quality of care. This is reflected in new limits on the number of hours a resident can work. These limits in part are in place to assure the physician was not impaired when caring for patients. The rules were required because physicians were unable to set appropriate boundaries for themselves.

New technology makes medicine more challenging and demands higher skill levels. New technology also lets us provide higher quality patient care more efficiently. This has helped us set reasonable boundaries and avoid unsafe conditions and still care for patients. This also lets us pursue healthier and more productive personal lives. Being healthier both physically and emotionally prevents us from "burning out" and allows us to relate better with our patients.

Abdul Foad, MD, Clinton, Iowa

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/03/15/edlt0315.htm.

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