Get Ready For Sleep-Deprived Doctors


This was the lead personal ad in the local free rag for seniors I picked up today. “Romantic, Successful Doctor Seeks nice lady anywhere.” My first question is if things are still like when I was in medical school.

Are men still pretending to be medical doctors when they try to pick up women? I certainly never saw doctors as a romantic ideal.  Have women been and are they still, telling their daughters to grow up and marry doctors? A higher percentage of doctors are women than ever before.  This would tell any sociologist what I already know — the social status of the profession is definitely on its way down.

Besides, has anyone noticed that doctors don’t look nearly as good as the men who play them on TV. They often have suboptimal marriages.  Lots of practices, especially in specialties like surgery or intensive care, are run like miniature military commands. Military men often have stressed marriages, too. It is hard to stop giving orders when you go home. Surely it is not the lure of a stable income. Insurance companies make out like bandits.  Doctors who finish training in specialties are in serious debt from their student loans.

Being a doctor seems to mean less as an alleged shortage seems to have led to lower cost substitutes like physician assistants or nurse practitioners getting more jobs. Laws are being changed state-by-state to allow people of lower credentials do what it used to be only a doctor could do — write prescriptions do procedures like Botox injections, and other things. Our “social capital” is down somehow there is less prestige, less respect associated with being a doctor.  Mostly this comes from a society that encourages cheap medical care and politicians who oblige by encouraging cost savings instead of lifesaving.

While I was in medical school, the death of a patient at the hands of an intern, a young trainee, by a professional error, made the folks in charge of training doctors decide 24 hour shifts were too long for trainees.  Just now (March 2017) the rule has been rescinded, presumably to facilitate continuity of care — to avoid turning over care from one doctor to the other so often. Oh, once there was an ancient and traditional way of doing things.  My French preceptor in neurosurgery told me a good neurosurgeon could make a flawless clinical decision after 4 days without sleep.  There is some macho ideal here.

When young doctors were treated humanely, I was pleased. Nurses worked shifts.  Doctors never did. Watch for more medical errors now that the world has gone back to trying to “toughen up” its doctors. Nowhere are these old dehumanizing ideals more misplaced, because nowhere can human error cause more to go wrong.

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