Blog | Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Has being a doctor become akin to indentured servitude?


Is medicine still a noble profession? Would you advise your child to enter the field?

You don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of medical professional burnout or job dissatisfaction. The ground is shifting underneath all of us as the industry undergoes massive political, economic, and social transformation.

A Chicago college advisor named Regnal Jones, who has been helping mentor students into medical school for almost 30 years, is now advising against it. [Dentistry, meanwhile, is still advised.] Here are the key reasons he provides, quoted from a Chicago Tribune column:

“The cost is too great, and it’s a lousy job …. The minute you say to me that you want to be a physician, it’s tantamount to saying you want to be an indentured servant.”

Jones said he feels so strongly in part because medical school tuition can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the time investment, depending on whether the student wants, for example, to be an internist or surgeon or orthopedist, can consume years of his or her life.

The indentured servant reference is telling. Jones is the executive director of the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program that recruits students from underrepresented racial and socioeconomic groups. Over almost 3 decades, he’s helped thousands of students enter health fields and other professions.

I find this very sad.

This post by John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.