How To Kill a Doctor

flying cadeuciiIt’s really quite easy to kill a doctor. Here’s a step-by-step process guaranteed to succeed at least 400 times a year:

Start early.

Be sure to denigrate medical students whenever possible. Even if they’ve come to the profession later in life and have accomplished all kinds of amazing things personally and professionally (which don’t count, of course, since those are other professions) they don’t know squat about medicine and you do. Make sure to emphasize their ignorance and inexperience at every turn, because it’s the only way to prove that you know more than they do, which of course means that you’re a better person than they are. The fact that as a group they’re all at the very top of their peer group in motivation and intelligence is irrelevant.

Tell them they’re lazy when they say they’re tired after being up for 36 hours (since they’re not residents, they don’t have work hour restrictions). Tell them they smell of formaldehyde from the anatomy lab and make amusing gagging noises whenever you see them. If all else fails and they are actually able to competently work up a patient, plus answer the most esoteric questions you can think of, impugn their sexuality or tell them they dress weird. Don’t worry about being judgmental; patients are the only ones deserving of your respect. And other doctors, of course; well, the ones ahead of you in training at any rate. But only in your own specialty.

Don’t let up once they graduate from medical school.

The first year of residency training is a great time to kill doctors. They’re foundering around desperately trying to figure out how to function in their new roles. Most of them are also drowning in debt and watching as their non-medical friends (if they still have any) get married, buy houses, and have kids; you know, have lives. Yell at them for everything that goes wrong with their patients, whether it was their fault or not. Tell them it builds character.

Hospital administrators have an important role.

Make sure the physicians you hire understand how important it is that they show up for their shifts, but don’t give them any input into the schedule. Ignore their scheduling requests, but tell them they were lost; better yet, imply that they were never sent. Same with messages, committee meetings, and other administrative responsibilities. Make sure there are enough of these to make it impossible for doctors to take care of the patients. Otherwise the patients may actually think it was the doctors, and not your wonderful hospital (or hospital system) responsible for their recoveries.

If you’re not a particularly affluent institution, make sure that the food, decor, and customer service at your institution is as bare-bones as you can, but lump everything under “Medical care” in your patient satisfaction questionnaires so the doctors get blamed. Then tie their payments to those satisfaction scores. Win-win, for you.

Be sure to switch up your EMR annually at least, but call it “Upgrading” and label any doctors who complain as “disruptive.” It helps if the main hospital, Emergency department, and Radiology departments all run separate systems that don’t interact. Make sure each system requires different passwords, and require that they be changed at different intervals. Forbid physicians to write them down. Security, you know.

Don’t stop once you’re in practice.

Pick on your younger colleagues for their inexperience. Whatever you do, never tell them they’re doing a good job. Stick them with as much holiday and weekend call as you can. After all, you’ve paid your dues; now it’s their turn. (Tell them that.) Don’t listen to your older colleagues either. They’re just old farts whose knowledge is waning. Who cares about their decades of experience? Just tune them out when they start talking to you, then nod condescendingly and walk away.

Practice that condescending look and use it at hospital staff events. Make it a point to ignore newcomers. Concentrate on talking just with your friends and laughing at inside jokes, especially when others are around. Don’t return their calls, and don’t take their calls if you can possibly help it. If you accidentally wind up on the phone with the patient’s primary physician, just tell them you’ve got it all under control, and that he (and the patient) are so lucky you got involved when you did.

Target your efforts.

None of the above actions in and of themselves is likely to drive a doctor to suicide. However if you manage to select individuals with a personal or family history of depression, those with poor social supports or self esteem issues, you can greatly increase your chances of killing a doctor. Concentrating on certain specialties where there may be easier access to more lethal means, like anesthesiology and surgery, may also raise your yield. Don’t despair, though. Intensively applying all the strategies above and more (you know what to do; much of it has been done to you over the years, and may still be occurring as we speak) to doctors in any specialty represent proven ways to kill them.

Now you know how to kill a doctor.

It’s really not that hard. The question is: Why would you want to?

Lucy Hornstein, MD is a contributing blogger for THCB. She blogs regularly at Musings of a Dinosaur, where this post first appeared.

Spread the love

8 replies »

  1. F**k doctors and their uncaring f**k you attitude towards their patients.

  2. The sentiments Dr. Hornstein expresses seem, unfortunately, typical of many of those belonging to the newer generations, not just doctors, but many of those raised in the last 20 years or so. (Pardon me, Dr. Hornstein, if you are older, but you sound like a 20 or 30-something.) Many of these folks seem to feel that everyone should be “nice” to them. Where did they get the idea that people are obligated to be nice to them or to treat them well?.
    The world will always be full of stinkers who gain satisfaction from abusing and denigrating others. Some of them also take perverse delight in harming others, or the careers of others, whenever they can. Who cares what those jokers think? They are the “sick” ones. By putting others down, they are desperately trying to shore up their own inadequate egos.
    Dr. Hornstein, you sound as if you may currently be a bit low on self-esteem. Remember that what others think of you does not, in any way, affect who you are, what you can do or what you are worth. You know who you are. Ignore them. If you are locked in a position where the misery they cause you is unavoidable, endure it and slog on. When the opportunity presents to get away, move on and forget them. (If you get fired, consider it a blessing.) Their behavior will eventually earn them the reward they deserve.
    Remember your Calling and why you answered it. Care about your patients. They are really the ones for whom you are working. Put them first, before yourself. Spend as much time with them as it takes to understand their problems and to provide effective treatment. Go out of your way to be helpful to them and to serve them well.
    Finally, never give up. When you feel overwhelmed, just keep on punching. Clear your mind and focus all your attention and energy on the patient before you and *his* problems. Pay attention to detail. Do not accept sloppy, careless, substandard work, from yourself or from others. Do the best job you can and live up to the ideals and ethics of the great and noble Profession of which you are privileged to be a member. Whether or not you ever make any money, you will receive a satisfaction and reward that few in this life are privileged to enjoy.

    R. Wayne Porter, M.D.
    Family Physician, solo practice
    Terrell, Texas

  3. Note and agree, Killshot. There are very few processes which are improved by contempt, not that its a lot of fun to engage in by the shallow and self-absorbed – just beat the doctors harder, and they can work better, those lazy bums! Whimpery types – Dr. Thomas Hendricks, you know the ones!

  4. Amazingly contemptuous review, wow! So, anyone who complains against the machine is merely a resentful sour-graper that cannot be comfortable with her/his second-rate status?
    Perhaps in the bright-sail days of the plucky Horatio Hornblower, one could rise to the top by cheek and verve, in spite of initial poverty and lack of influential friends. It sure makes a handy explanation of Poverty in America – those lazy bucks and their gimme mentality! They could all be neurosurgeons if they just TRIED, for God’s sake.

    “Unaccomodating” was not a word used towards idiot lower officers in places like Vietnam. “The kind of SOB that will get you killed,,,” was, however. Perhaps our “poor performers,” as Dr. Lack offers, might have fought harder in the jungles and won the war, rather than their own inferior combat skills? Ya think so? Even with lukewarm mentorship?
    Offering contempt ain’t fixing the problem, nor is the trend towards narcissistic (when not psychopathic) leadership by the self-designated Golden Ones who are just trying to hold the pitiful many up to the highest standards. You go with that, Doc. You go right on and tell’m.
    So the 400 medical suicides – a veiled reference in the first paragraph – is just the normal, natural thinning of the herd? Right on!

  5. This is another “poor me” blog which takes obvious behavioral conclusions and glorifies poor performance with multiple excuses based on such conclusions when they might not be applicable. Why confuse poor decision making with inappropriate behavior of mentors. Who leads such a gilded life that they don’t have to overcome obstacles, even those presented by unaccommodating personalities of mentors.

  6. Nicely done. A few footnotes might include continuous disregard for what an MDs time is worth (in most cases far less than a plumber’s now), impossible regulatory requirements for documentation of everything including patient emails and phone calls, and providing every incentive possible to discourage intellectual curiosity and creativity in the clinical setting (practice guidelines that are usually years out of date by the time they are printed up). And remember — when an accountant or attorney charges for a phone call or meeting, they simply have to list it as “phone call or meeting” with very little documentation necessary as to what the content was other than a brief description. When an MD does ANYTHING, they have to document it all right down to the shoes they were wearing when they did it. Of course, not billable time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *