January 23, 2009

"Overrated Career: Physician 2009."

The Appeal: You get to help keep people healthy and cure them when they're sick. Prestige is high, and so is the pay.

The Reality: Fewer and fewer patients see their physicians as godlike, especially those who go online for medical information. Doctors are spending less time than ever with patients and more on paperwork. Insurers keep hacking away at physician costs. And it seems increasingly more likely that physician pay will decline as part of healthcare reform. Also, their workload will more likely increase as the existing cadre of physicians may be required to care for the 47 million currently uninsured people in the United States.

An Alternative: Physician Assistant
Heh. Funny how being a PA is more desirable in this economy than being a physician. Don't get me wrong, physician extenders like PAs are an important part of our health care system in providing routine services to patients -- but why would it be more attractive to get two years less school training and skip residency altogether only to become essentially a resident for the rest of your career? I understand that there are more opportunities to enter practice as a PA than an MD. Slots for med schools are slim to none. More and more PA schools are opening up to meet the growing demand.

The thought that makes me most uncomfortable with this trend is not that PAs are taking on more and more work that MDs used to do. It is that the PUBLIC often does not know the difference. After all, PAs and MDs both wear white coats, sit down and talk with you after the nurse sees you and takes your blood pressure. I think that there needs to be more of a distinction so patients don't feel cheated (and I've had a few complain to me) when they realize that they've been going to the doctor's office only to learn that the person they are seeing is a PA under wraps.

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