Impact of Work/Life Balance in Medicine

From The Wall Street Journal last week:

U.S. medicine is in the middle of a cultural revolution, as young physicians intent on balancing work and family challenge the assumption that a doctor should be available to treat patients around the clock.

Who can blame them?  Since the time that physicians enter undergraduate school through the completion of their residencies (and beyond) they are expected to spend a massive amount of time on the task at hand—often foregoing social interaction.  In the past, when doctors have finished their education they were expected to be available 24/7/365 +40 (or so) years.

Combined with low reimbursement (relatedly speaking), it is no wonder why medical students pass up primary care residencies.

The trend is likely to continue.  Physicians may more and more become employed by the hospitals they work in.  Many will continue to decline excessive on-call hours.  Dr. Jay Parkinson has proven the ability of a young physician to find a sustainable life outside of the traditional system.  American medicine is beginning to utilize a team-based approach to medicine:

To adapt, American medicine is drifting away from the old standard — in which a single doctor handled almost all of a patient’s needs — and toward a more team-based approach. This system includes not only multiple doctors but also nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

While there are some concerns, it is good to hear of innovation in the care delivery model.  As more new physicians enter the world and continue to expect a fair work/life balance the innovation will need to accelerate to accommodate our health care needs.  Let’s get to work.

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