Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Doctors want family lives, too. Last week, I had a conversation with Deborah Mulligan, an emergency room doctor at a children's hospital and single mother of three daughters. We talked about all the young women entering pediatric medicine and their desire to curb their work hours in order to have families. Deborah, a professor by day and ER doctor on nights and weekends, could relate.
A front page story in yesterday’s WSJ tackled the subject as did a blog post. It says that young physicians are challenging the assumption that a doctor should be available to treat patients around the clock. The attitudes are giving rise to different types of practice options -- ranging from small, primary-care facilities to jobs that keep doctors on predictable schedules by using a team-based approach that rotates multiple doctors among patients.
But does their work/life balance come at a price to the public? The piece says such choices are putting an additional strain on America’s health-care system because doctors are eschewing fields with unpredictable hours, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine.
And, there's the generational issue. Some senior doctors gripe that older physicians must pick up the slack for these young docs, handling trauma and emergency calls. “It really gets on your nerves when you get these young guys coming in and interviewing and they say, ‘I’m not doing this, I’m not doing that,’” says one.
I encountered the clash between generations in the medical profession when speaking about work/life balance to a large pediatric group last year. Most of the older male pediatricians had stay-at-home wives. The concept of balancing work and care giving was foreign to them. And, the industry shift toward family-friendly solutions was not something they were eager to embrace.
I would imagine these issues are playing out in other professions. Today's reality is most families are dual income. Family-friendly solutions to workplace issues are the trend. But look past the generation issue and I think there is an interesting question to ask, will the public pay a price?