I receive several requests a month from people with axes to grind against doctors and lawyers. They send me detailed accounts of how they’ve been treated along with the real names and addresses of said doctors and lawyers.
They’re juvenile, not to mention obnoxious. I don’t even finish reading most of them, let alone respond to them. But I received a particularly insufferable one this past Saturday morning.
I’m not going into details except to say that she was not happy with this particular doctor because he refused to write prescriptions for medicine that she felt that she needed.
Her criticism of her doctor—and doctors in general—was vulgar and profane. Plus, she thought it was unfair that doctors earn mega-bucks while her neighbor, a nurse’s aide, earns less than $17,000 a year.
She included her full name—and her doctor’s as well. I searched his name and he’s a real doctor with a flawless reputation.
I won’t use her name here, but I will use her initials and location (MT from the Midwest). Nor did I respond to her directly.
I have no doubts that MT has had some horrible experiences with doctors, but if she speaks to her doctor in the same condescending, combative tone as was implied in her email, I suspect that the bulk of her difficulties stems from her own crappy attitude.
From the tone of her email, this woman appears to be one colossal butt pain as a patient; she’s definitely the type who could royally piss off the most sincere of Marcus Welby clones.
Hopefully MT will get my meaning when I tell her that her criticism is not only profane and vulgar, but too broad, as well. I’m even giving her the benefit of the doubt that, perhaps, her attitude is the result of some prolonged genuine frustration.
But, instead of criticizing only her doctor—or even a few other doctors—with whom she’s had bad experiences, she paints the entire profession with the same broad brush strokes.
As well, it doesn’t make any sense for her to compare nurse’s aides’ earnings to those of licensed physicians, unless she’s trying to contrast the value-added aspect of holding medical degrees.
MT, according to the AMA (American Medical Association) and the MMA (Medical Management Association), there are about 661,400 physicians in the United States. I’ll just round that down to 660,000 to cover the FUF (Fu*k-up Factor) in the standard error of estimate.
This number covers doctors only and it includes all groupings from private practice through salaried practitioners in every field from family practice to myriad specialty practices.
Of the 660,000 physicians, with how many of them have you had direct experience? One? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? One-hundred? Even if the number is one-hundred, your sample size is only 0.015% (that’s fifteen one thousands of one percent).
Throughout my lifetime, beginning at my earliest recollection (4-years-old) and ending with last month’s personal physician appointment, I’ve dealt one-on-one with ten doctors. Including the ones my wife has dealt with, the total comes to sixteen, plus 3-high profile surgeons.
And, I won’t even count the physicians I dealt with regarding my mother’s care, including one of the country’s leading cardiac surgeons—though he didn’t have a “god-like” bone in his body.
All of them have demonstrated the highest caliber of professionalism, empathy, and compassion; not a self-proclaimed “god” in the lot.
But, as positive as my experiences have been, I’d be the last to nominate the entire profession for sainthood based on such a small sample size. I just think that most of them are simply competent, well-meaning professionals trying their best to offer empathy and hope.
With respect to the earnings of the physicians, the same groups (AMA and MMA) estimate the median salary for general practice physicians to be about $181,400 annually. And, for specialists, including surgeons, the median income is about $331,000 annually.
And, keep in mind that these figures are based on the median (50% earn more and 50% earn less), not the mean (the average of the total). And, granted, if one happens to be a nurse’s aide earning $17-thousand a year, physician compensation is quite high.
On the other hand, it takes a minimum of ten years (college, medical school, and residency) to train a general practice doctor. It takes at least 5-years longer to train a specialist (including surgeons).
But it takes only about 15-months to train nurses’ aides, and they do not have to be college graduates.
Pay in the private sector depends on what the market bears. Physicians earn more because the market supports it. The same is true, by the way, of nurses’ aides.
And finally, the average time spent by financially established physicians on pro bono work is around 20%. The longer they’ve practiced, the higher goes the rate of freebies. As well, the older, more established ones pay their own travel expenses if necessary.
And, as difficult as it is to believe, the percentage of pro bono work for well-established competent lawyers is often higher.
MT, take it from an old man—and I learned this long ago—the tenor of your day, more often than not, follows the direction of the corners of your mouth. Lighten the hell up!