Doctors reveal what gets under their skin about their job

From the person at the cocktail party who comes up seeking medical advice to having to justify their clinical judgement to an insurer, those are some of the things that drive doctors crazy, according to Physicians Practice.

It can be big problems, such as over-regulation from the government, or just the little annoyances, such as cranky patients, that can irk doctors. Physicians had a wide range of complaints when Physicians Practice asked members of its advisory board for their pet peeves about the job.

It’s a lack of respect for Stephen Rockower, M.D., a Rockville, Maryland-based orthopedic surgeon. “That no one respects us anymore and everybody thinks they are a doctor--nurses, therapists, chiropractors, neuropaths, pointy-headed people who work for insurance companies, universities or government,” he said. But none of them are responding to a 3 a.m. call about a sick child, he says.

There’s also lots of frustration about regulations and requirements. For James Legan, M.D, an internist from Great Falls, Montana, it’s bringing in patients for a face-to-face visit just to meet Medicare requirements so he can document the need for medical equipment or talking to elderly patients about the need for the shingles vaccine but then telling them Medicare probably won’t pay for it. The need for prior authorizations and having to justify decisions to a non-medical person, are a pet peeve for Melissa Young, M.D., an endocrinologist from Freehold, New Jersey.

Saroj Misra, D.O., a family medicine physician from Warren, Michigan, says she is frustrated by the dichotomy of being told to treat medicine as a business, yet at the same time that it is a higher calling. Rebecca Fox., M.D., a pediatrician from Louden County, Virginia, says she’s most uncomfortable being asked for medical advice in a social situation by a person who isn’t even her patient.

And while everyone has complaints about their job, healthcare organizations should not ignore serious issues, such as obstacles that prevent physicians from providing optimal patient care in their practice. Instead of dismissing physician complaints as whining or looking for quick fixes, good leaders will look for solutions to serious complaints that can create patient safety risks.

One of the ways to keep doctors happy is to remove barriers that keep them from focusing on their interactions with patients. The fundamental motivation for physicians remains helping people, and there's ample evidence that when doctors build strong, direct relationships with their patients, better health outcomes follow.

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