Yesterday at the faculty meeting, we learned that the first year residents in anesthesia will now have to take AND PASS a written exam at the end of their first year. They will have a certain number of tries and if a resident can’t pass it by the third try they’re either out of the program or held back in some way. Now, it used to be when I was a baby resident that the first year residents took the certification exam that the third years took, and it was graded on a curve based on year. You didn’t have to pass it or get a certain grade; it was sort of a reality check, to see how you were doing. I don’t know who’s brilliant idea this new test was, other than the people who administer and charge for the test. It might be a solution in search of a problem, I have no idea.
Here’s the thing. Testing freaks residents out. They have been taking high-stakes tests their whole entire lives. In high school they had to get As and score a 1400 on the SAT. In college they still had to get As, but also had to ace the MCAT. In med school the tests might have been pass/fail but USMLE Steps 1 and 2, both of which are taken during med school, certainly weren’t. Results of those had bearing on what residency you got into. The result of all this standardized testing is that every resident has PTSD about tests, and every resident has had years to figure out how he or she can most quickly cram in the amount of information necessary to do well on the test. Residents are masters of this. There is absolutely no reason to read the textbook, which is likely 8 years out of date anyway, when you can go straight to the review books and practice exams online. Especially if the threat of expulsion or repetition, both of which are disasters on multiple foreign and domestic fronts, is held over their heads.
Continue reading “No Resident Left Behind”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Burnout, graduate medical education, Physicians, Residency, Shirie Leng
May 9, 2013
A few weeks ago, The Health Care Blog published a truly outstanding commentary by Jeff Goldsmith, on why practice redesign isn’t going to solve the primary care shortage. In the post, Goldsmith explains why a proposed model of high-volume primary care practice — having docs see even more patients per day, and grouping them in pods — is unlikely to be accepted by either tomorrow’s doctors or tomorrow’s boomer patients. He points out that we are replacing a generation of workaholic boomer PCPs with ”Gen Y physicians with a revealed preference for 35-hour work weeks.” (Guilty as charged.) Goldsmith ends by predicting a “horrendous shortfall” of front-line clinicians in the next decade.
Now, not everyone believes that a shortfall of PCPs is a serious problem.
However, if you believe, as I do, that the most pressing health services problems to solve pertain to Medicare, then a shortfall of PCPs is a very serious problem indeed.
So serious that maybe it’s time to consider the unthinkable: encouraging clinicians to become Medicare PCPs by aligning the job with a 35 hour work week.
I can already hear all clinicians and readers older than myself harrumphing, but bear with me and let’s see if I can make a persuasive case for this.
Continue reading “An Indecent Proposal That Just Might Solve the Primary Care Crisis: Meet the 35 Hour Work Week”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Burnout, Hospitals, Jeff Goldsmith, Leslie Kernisan, Long Term Care, Medicare, Physicians, practice management, primary care, primary care shortage
Apr 16, 2013
A little over a year ago, I found myself burning out and realized that my worklife was unsustainable.
I’d been working at an FQHC clinic, and had become the site’s medical director a few months before. I was practicing as a primary care doc, trying to improve our clinical workflows, problem-solving around the new e-prescribing system, helping plan the agency’s transition from paper charts to electronic charts, and working on our housecalls and geriatrics programs.
All of this was supposed to be a 50% position — plus 5% paid time for follow-up — because I had two young children that I wanted to have some time for, and was also working one day/week for a caregiving website (Caring.com).
Needless to say, this job was taking far more than 55% of my time, and seemed to be consuming 110% of my psyche. I very much liked my boss and colleagues, was learning a lot, and felt I was improving care for older adults.
But I was also irritable, stressed out, and had developed chronic insomnia. And clinic sessions were leaving me drained and feeling miserable: try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to provide care to my (and my patients’) satisfaction with the time and resources I had available.
One evening my 3 year old daughter looked at me and asked “Why are you always getting mad and saying no?”
Good question, kiddo.
A few weeks later, I told my boss that I’d be resigning my position in 5 months. And I started trying to reimagine how I might practice geriatrics.
My current clinical practice, which I launched last October, is the result of that reimagining.
Continue reading “One Woman Brand: How one Doctor Started Over Again With a New Practice, a New Specialty and a Great New Outlook on Life”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Burnout, Geriatrics, Leslie Kernisan, Medicare, Micropractice, Outpatient, Physician work hours
Feb 8, 2013
Being a doctor isn’t a happy profession in 2012: 3 in 5 doctors say that, if they could, they’d retire this year. Over three-fourths of physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession. 84% of doctors feel that the medical profession is in decline. And, over 1 in 3 doctors would choose a different professional if they had it all to do over again.
The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of doctors, sent a survey to 630,000 physicians — every physician in the U.S. that’s registered with the AMA’s Physician Master File — in March-June 2012. The Foundation received over 13,000 completed surveys back. Findings from these data are summarized in the Foundations report, A Survey of America’s Physicians, published in September 2012.
Morale among physicians is much lower than it was in 2008, as shown in the first chart. Five years ago, less than 1 in 2 doctors would opt to retire; that’s up by over one-third. What’s driving doctors toward pessimism are the least satisfying aspects of practicing medicine in 2012, including:
Concerns about liability, 40%
The hassle of dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and government regulations, 27%. Over 52% of doctors said they’ve limited access to Medicare patients to their practices, or they’re planning to do so.
Lack of work/life balance, 25%
Uncertainty about health reform, 22%
Paperwork, 18%. The survey found that physicians spend over 22% of their time on non-clinical paperwork, resulting in a huge clinical productivity loss.
EMR implementation as a “least satisfying” aspect of work is quite low on the roster of concerns, with only 9% of doctors noting that as a prime concern in 2012.
As a result of uncertainty due to health reform, regulation and finance/reimbursement, the percent of physicians who remain independent will drop to 33% in 2013, Accenture forecasts, from 57% in 2000, 49% in 2005, and 43% in 2009. Aligning with a health system/hospital gives doctors more economic security and fewer administrative hassles.
Continue reading “3 in 5 Physicians Would Quit Today If They Could”
Filed Under: Physicians
Tagged: AMA, Burnout, EHR, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, OpenNotes, Physician Morale, Physicians, Survey of America's Physicians, The Physicians Foundation
Oct 8, 2012
I cleaned out my office yesterday. I gathered up the outdated pictures of my family, handwritten notes from my children when they were much younger, pictures of patients, notes from patients, and the knick knacks that accumulate over 18 years of being in one place. Most of them were dusty or worn with the tarnish of time; things that sit in the office unnoticed until a moment like this.
I also went through the files of old information – information I seldom if ever used – detailing the financial struggles it took to build a successful practice. Here’s what we collected in 1998. Here are the notes from an office administration meeting in 2002. Here are handwritten flow diagrams I made to figure out a way to improve workflow. Here’s a list of patients from 2000 who were eligible flu shots with a sticky note affixed to the folder saying: “give to Angie.” I’m not sure I ever gave it to her.
The majority of paper, however, was spent on spreadsheets. There are spreadsheets of productivity, of income, of expenses, projected income, effects of adding new partners, of quality measures and of the ever ominous accounts receivable. These are numbers my distractible brain always had difficulty wrapping around, yet they stand as a testament to the myriad of details that work in the background of life. They mean even less to me now than they once did, like the dates on gravestones for people long forgotten, yet their existence reminds me that these days were not the dusty pictures sitting on the shelves of my memory; they were days of many small details and struggles. Life looks like a movie from the outside, but its reality is found in the spreadsheets it leaves behind.
Continue reading “Destination Unknown”
Filed Under: Physicians
Tagged: Burnout, Rob Lamberts
Oct 1, 2012
It happened again. I was talking to a particularly sick patient recently who related another bad experience with a specialist.
“He came in and started spouting that he was busy saving someone’s life in the ER, and then he didn’t listen to what I had to say,” she told me. ”I know that he’s a good doctor and all, but he was a real jerk!”
This was a specialist that I hold in particular high esteem for his medical skill, so I was a little surprised and told her so.
“I think he holds himself in pretty high esteem, if you ask me,” she replied, still angry.
“Yes,” I agreed, “he probably does. It’s kind of hard to find a doctor who doesn’t.”
She laughed and we went on to figure out her plan.
This encounter made me wonder: was this behavior typical of this physician (something I’ve never heard about from him), or was there something else going on? I thought about the recent study which showed doctors are significantly more likely than people of other professions to suffer from burn-out.
Compared with a probability-based sample of 3442 working US adults, physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9% vs 27.8%) and to be dissatisfied with work-life balance (40.2% vs 23.2%) (P < .001 for both).
This is consistent with other data I’ve seen indicating higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide for physicians compared to the general public. On first glance it would seem that physicians would have lower rates of problems associated with self-esteem, as the medical profession is still held in high esteem by the public, is full of opportunities to “do good” for others, and (in my experience) is one in which people are quick to express their appreciation for simply doing the job as it should be done. Yet this study not only showed burn-out, but a feeling of self-doubt few would associate with my profession.
Continue reading “Burnout”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Burnout, depression, Emergency Medicine, Family medicine, Internal Medicine, Paperwork, Reimbursement, Rob Lamberts
Sep 4, 2012