Blog | Monday, May 17, 2021

Is my new doctor qualified?

When one applies for a job or a position, it is expected that the interviewer will assess if the applicant has the necessary skill set and experience. Doesn't this make sense? Consider these examples.

A clarinetist applies for a position in a symphony orchestra. While many criteria will be assessed, he will surely need to audition to demonstrate his musicianship. Would he ever be hired without playing a note?

A college student wants to join the swim team. The applicant can expect to show off her speed and technique as she cuts across the pool. Would any coach accept a new swim team member without watching her swim?

A journalist for a town paper applies for a job at a large metropolitan newspaper. The interviewing editor will surely review the applicant's prior work product to gauge his competence and suitability for the new position. Would an editor bring on a new reporter without ever reviewing his writings?

A college graduates applies to the State Department as a translator. Would such a hire ever occur without determining if the applicant has the requisite language skills?

So how does the medical profession hire on new medical professionals? I should certainly know this since I've been in the trade for 3 decades and have had enough job interviews to know how the process works. I'll ask readers to peruse the following 5 sample gastroenterologist applicant questions. Can you spot the ones I was asked during my prior job interviews?

Which antibiotics do you typically prescribe for diverticulitis?

What is your age cutoff for offering screening colonoscopies?

What is your complication rate for colonoscopy and other medical procedures?

When is the right time to prescribe steroids in Crohn's disease?

Does a patient who is having a gallstone attack and a fever need to be hospitalized?

Which ones were I asked? None of the above. For reasons I cannot easily explain, I have never been asked any medical question during any prior job interview. Similarly, when I have interviewed job applicants myself, I have never queried them on any medical issue. The profession, at least in my experience, assumes that physician applicants have all of the necessary medical skills and knowledge, even though this does not seem to make much sense. Shouldn't the applicant at the very least be asked to review case histories of assorted patients and to comment? It seems it's a lot tougher to get a job as a clarinetist than as a gastroenterologist. Does this put your mind at ease?

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.