While physicians are the most respected professionals, and they garner the second-highest level of trust of all occupations in the USA, some misconceptions about being a doctor still prevail. Which of them are the most unjustified? Let’s find out.
Doctors Are Grossly Overpaid
According to the Bureau of Labor, in 2018, the annual mean wage in the US was $51,960. Medical specialists earn six times that number, with an average of $329,000. This sounds like a lot of money, so why is it a myth that doctors get paid too much?
The pay discrepancies in medicine are enormous, and doctors’ wages differ extensively from one specialty and geographical location to another. Pediatricians, family doctors, and endocrinologist earn the least, scoring below the healthcare average, while neurosurgeons top income rankings, with salaries ranging from $660K to $809K per year.
On the whole, highly-specialized locum tenens physicians tend to be the most affluent, while those in the public system frequently don’t receive compensation that makes up for their hard work and dedication, not to mention exorbitant student loans. To earn a good income, doctors must first go through long years of laborious training and extravagant tuition that leave many of them with debt for life. What’s more, insurance expenses and indemnity fees continue to diminish their total revenue.
Doctors Can Be Replaced By the Internet
The rapid advancement in digital solutions has inspired numerous positive changes in healthcare but also contributed a range of issues that shouldn’t be ignored. One of them is the rising popularity of self-diagnosis and the prevailing expectation from doctors to concur with whatever illnesses their patients claim to be suffering from.
As 63% of Americans look up specific information about their diseases or treatment on the Internet (source: NBC News), doctors become increasingly challenged by patients who confront their knowledge and undermine authority.
That’s why it’s vital for doctors to highlight and communicate the subtleties of medical treatment to their patients. Diagnosis is not a one-off Q&A session, but it requires a systematic approach, based on a holistic image of each patient’s condition. While tools and platforms such as symptoms checking apps, self-diagnosis portals, or healthcare forums may motivate patients to consult a doctor, they shouldn’t be treated as a replacement for doctor’s knowledge and experience.
Doctors Are Invincible
Another widespread myth about doctors is that they are immune to burnout, stress, a lack of work-life balance, substance abuse, and diseases. Contrary to this popular belief, healthcare specialists are as vulnerable to those factors as other professionals.
Doctors work irregular hours, live unhealthy lifestyles, and get exposed to sleep deprivation and periods of prolonged stress. That makes burnout and depression extremely common among them; what’s worse, many physicians refuse to seek help and report any symptoms for fear of losing their licenses.
Doctors Bear Responsibility for Their Patients’ Health
This myth stems from the fact that a vast number of patients reject any responsibility for their condition and expect doctors to be fully accountable for a successful treatment outcome.
Physicians issue diagnoses, suggest treatment methods and provide information and advice but it’s up to patients to comply with these recommendations. And they rarely do so, as in developed countries adherence to therapies averages 50% (source: NCBI). This means every second person visiting a doctor’s office ignores what they are being told.
Although patient engagement is instrumental for quicker recovery, very few people recognize the impact of one’s lifestyle, workout routine, and diet choices on their health. Doctors cannot control their patients’ actions after they leave a practice but may work towards raising awareness of the vital role patient engagement plays in improving treatment results.
Doctors Should Be Available 24/7
On average, doctors spend 60-80 hours per week at work, weekends and nights included. They are constantly being pushed to work even more with less time to rest. It’s a common expectation that physicians should be available around the clock, fitting in every patient regardless of the time of day. That leads to a question whether doctors can enjoy any private life at all.
On duty physicians are often booked back-to-back with no time even for a quick lunch break. When they’re off, doctors are constantly disturbed by patients calling at odd times with minor requests that don’t require immediate assistance.
What’s most frustrating is that while patients don’t hesitate to complain about unpunctual and unavailable medical staff, they rarely feel any guilt or remorse for missed or canceled visits. In fact, the no-show rates in healthcare range from 15-30% (source: NCBI).
While it may be difficult to persuade patients to change their habits and become less demanding, there are numerous affordable solutions in place that allow doctors to accommodate patients’ requests at any time and maintain peace of mind outside of work.
The Bottom Line
Patients often see healthcare specialists as some omniscient superheroes who enjoy glamorous and happy lives. The truth is far from that. Being a doctor is a vocation that involves leading a lifestyle that would be difficult to accept for most people. Doctors should be respected for their incredible efforts, and get the same right to maintain work-life balance as other professionals do.