This part of the site reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system, and how this impacts the experience of being a doctor.
Additionally, I am personally debating whether to practice clinical medicine, a decision which I will discuss in this section of the website both personally, and academically. After just completing my chief resident year in family medicine, I am currently taking a break from being a doctor, first and foremost to spend time with and help care for my mother, but also to explore my career options going forward. I am not the only doctor debating whether to actually practice medicine, and if you are curious for some beginning reading on the topic, click on the links provided to get some background of both sides of the issue (located to the right on your computer, or underneath on your mobile device).
Let's begin by starting to consider what a doctor should be and is.
Many patients want* their doctors to be empathetic and kind, thorough and respectful, without being hurried. They also want their doctors to be confident (but not arrogant), and typically assume doctors will be deeply knowledgeable about their field. There is also a growing movement of patients and health professionals, including doctors, questioning the conventional medical establishment on everything from cholesterol management to vaccines, with many patients looking for integrative healing from other sources.
At the same time, doctors and other health professionals are under increasing pressure to improve patient satisfaction while avoiding (and sometimes in order to avoid) the looming specter of medical malpractice. The latter fear contributes to defensive medicine, lest this patient is the one rare individual who is permanently harmed, or perceives harm.
On the other hand, people literally trust doctors and other medical providers with their lives. Could there be a more valuable earthly outcome at stake? Health care professionals are usually there at the start of life, at its end, and at some of the scariest points in between. From my experience, for some patients, visits to their primary care provider are the highlight of their week. And many times, members of the health profession take the place of family in caring for society's sickest, oldest and poorest members. There are still doctors who make house calls, not just for the wealthy, but even for the neediest individuals.
The role of "doctor" is not straight-forward. And how doctors fill that role is influenced by many factors, but first and foremost, by both the human in the gown AND the human in the white coat. Doctors must have an awareness of how we see the world so that we can recognize when our lens is out of focus in a given situation.
* Words in blue can be clicked on to connect to sources for the statements being made. These sources will open as a new window in your browser unless they are within a humandoctor.