Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012
Physician shortage might hinge on family medicine
Despite the impending primary care physician shortage, residents are left with few incentives to become family medicine practitioners, according to a recent story by the New York Times.
The disincentives come from many directions. Many medical schools already disparage family medicine as a poor use of medical school resources, and this is compounded by the fact that primary care physicians make only a half to one third what their specialized counterparts earn, according to the article. Meanwhile, many medical students completing clerkships find that primary care physicians are burdened by administrative tasks instead of engaged fully in patient care.
The physicians interviewed in the article suggest a few remedies to change the tide. Russell Phillips, MD, of Harvard University believes earlier, yearlong clerkships would help students realize the long-term relationships primary care physicians are able to build with their patients. Meanwhile, other clinicians want medical schools to bolster primary care education and encourage students to enter the field.
Hopefully, a workable strategy will be implemented soon to avoid the primary care shortfall predicted by many analysts. The AMA Resident and Fellow Section has created an issue brief for residents wanting more information about the physician shortage.
Resident struggling with lifestyle hypocrisies
Maintaining your own health while proselytizing health to your patients might be one of the most difficult challenges of the resident lifestyle, as chronicled recently by Brian Secemsky, MD, the Huffington Post's residency blogger.
Dr. Secemsky discusses the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude that comes with living under the pressure of a resident's schedule, combined with bad health habits picked up before training. He believes that this is a troubling attitude—as care is optimized when physicians practice what they preach—but one that is easy to fall into. Residents should be mindful that they have a "personal responsibility for their well-being but also an obligation to their patients to engage in the same health behaviors they recommend," he writes.
Dr. Secemsky has hit on an important topic; a study at the Baylor College of Medicine shows residents are actually at a higher risk for a range of health issues, including cardiac issues and mood and emotional issues. Residents also identify coffee, tea, soft drinks, junk food, chocolate and over-the-counter caffeine tablets among their fatigue coping strategies.
Maintaining the proper life balance is essential not only for your own well-being, but also for the care you provide patients. An AMA toolkit can help physicians reflect on what steps they need to take to live a healthy life. Read more about what the AMA is doing to encourage physicians to live healthier. Also, learn about the International Conference on Physician Health, which is taking place Oct. 25–27 in Montreal.