Monday, June 13, 2011

Health Reform, Women Physicians, and the Doctor Shortage

June 13, 2011 - A June 12 New York Times Op-Ed by Karen Sibert, MD, an anesthesiologist, is getting a big play in physician blogging circles, as it should.

Doctor Sibert is saying the health system needs doctors so badly that women physicians should step up to the plate and dedicate themselves to their careers, rather than dream of being part-time doctors.

Hers is a well-written piece, full of solid facts and useful arguments,

She writes, for example, that:

• 15 years from now, we’ll be 150,000 doctors short of what we need.

• Decline in doctors’ due to Medicare and Medicaid cuts may drive the young and the bright into more lucrative fields.

• Women received 48% of MD degrees in 2010.

• Women work 4.5 hours less hours each week than men.

• Women dominate in certain residency programs – 53% of Family physicians, 63% of pediatrics, and 80% of ob-gyns.

• You can't replace doctors completely with nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, or physician assistants, because it takes a doctor to make critical decisions.

• You can keep more female physicians in the field through tort reform, protecting against Medicare cuts, lightening the bureaucratic paperwork, and setting up childcare centers for them.

The main thrust of her argument, as revealed by her title “Don’t Quit This Day Job,” is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, in her words, “If you want to be a doctor, be a doctor. You can’t have it all…Patients need doctors to take care of them. Medicine shouldn’t be a part-time interest to be set aside if it becomes inconvenient. It deserves to be a life’s work."

Nobody ever claimed being a doctor would be easy. Congress, by passing laws imposing a cap on the number of physicians in training programs, cutting physician incomes, and piling on more government regulations, simply makes being a doctor – male or female – harder.


Mommy Doc said...

Would you prefer these women doctors not have gone into medicine in the first place, further widening the shortage gap of primary care physicians? (or have had these positions filled by men who may choose non-primary care fields?) This article is so prejudicial against women in the medical field. What about men who choose to go part time to stay home with their families or to take on administrative roles?

Good luck with recruiting more doctors to take care of this future explosion of patients, when the contract includes an ultimatum to choose between career and family.

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

I am not prejudicial towards woman doctors. They are wonderful physicians, and in every case I can think of bring something positive to the table.

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

P.S. I far as I can see, men physicians seek a balanced life style every bit as much as their female counterparts.

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