Are Doctors Really That Miserable?

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sad doctor

Forget the high pay, societal admiration, and life-saving: Being a doctor is actually “a miserable and humiliating undertaking,” according to a recent Daily Beast article. So miserable, in fact, that medicine was recently ranked the second-most suicidal occupation (after marine engineers — who knew?!). But are physicians really that unhappy?

According to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center who is quoted in the Daily Beast article, the real problem plaguing doctors is a lack of time. Put in a bind by increasingly complicated health insurance protocols, doctors now spend an average of 12 minutes actually interacting with patients face-to-face. Primary care doctors carry a roster of 2,000 to 2,500 patients–way more than they can get to know well. Add to that frustrations with insurance companies, demanding patients, and busybody hospital administrators, and the job can indeed get frustrating. But that could also be said of plenty of other jobs, from teaching to business to law.

In a recent interview with NPR, Schimpff offers a more moderate assessment of what it’s like to be a doctor today, noting that if given a chance to re-do their lives, 68 percent of primary care physicians would stick with medicine. “Miserable and humiliating” seems like a pretty extreme way to describe a job that still comes with high earning potential and lots of public esteem.

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