So, there’s something that’s happening in Ontario right now that has been appearing on my Facebook feed that’s made me consider – and rant a bit – at this concept that doctors are only into medicine because they’re “in it for the money.”
The Ontario provincial government is cutting the fees that doctors can charge for services, and the totalled cuts this year are more than 4 percent. And a lot of the public response seems to be totally on board with this, because well, doctors aren’t really working those long hours in stressful situations because they have a dedication to medicine and their patients, they’re just doing it for the money.
So, it’s impossible that a doctor might have a sincere passion for medicine and helping people and also want to make a fair wage for the work and training they do and have?
Since when were these two ideas mutually exclusive?
“No, but we’re only talking about the people who go into medicine just for the money, not the people who want to help people and like the idea of money,” people who take this viewpoint often say.
So yeah, two things in response:
- No, you’re also judging people for whom one of their motivating factors for medical school is the ability to earn an income, i.e. everyone.
- Seriously, are there actually people who chose medicine just because they are “in it for the money?”
Now, I’ll come back to point 1 in a second, but as of point 2, I’m actually curious: are there people who actually think that medicine is just filled with people who want to make bank? Because medicine is kind of a terrible way to do that, from most viewpoints! If you were motivated solely by income (and I’m not judging, having money is fine!) then would you look at 8 years of university, 100-200 thousand dollars in tuition and then 2-5 years of residency compared to say, 4 years of university, maybe 20 thousand in tuition and an income earning job after those 4 years like say a business degree provides and go, “oh yeah, medicine seems like a great get rich quick scheme!”
Any hustler who makes that trade is bad at hustling!
You’ll note this movie wasn’t called “The Wolf of the Family Practice.”
Look, yes, doctors have an increased earning potential compared to many other professions. But they also don’t receive pensions, or bonuses. They have to pay malpractice insurance, wages for office staff if they are in private practice and they don’t have any kind of severance package. There’s this image of the physician as this fat cat, rolling in all this money, and thus because of that physicians aren’t ever able to complain about spending cuts or long hours or the normal hardships of life that everyone else does.
And that image isn’t true.
Most doctors are just like anyone else: working to pay mortgages or car payments, to send kids off to university and to save enough away to retire.
When did the ability to earn money become such a dirty thing when considering a career path as a physician?
Because seriously, the potential earning power of a career is something that everyone considers, no matter the career. When was the last time you had someone tell you, “Well I’ve practiced and trained on this musical instrument for years and now I’m going to audition for my dream job in the Wherever You Live Symphony Orchestra.” And you replied, “Yeah, but you must not have a sincere passion for music or you’d just give free concerts and busk for donations on the street. You’re just doing that for the money.”
You’ve probably never had that conversation, right?
And yet it’s perfectly fine when someone when says, “Look, I’ve worked really hard and studied and volunteered to become a doctor,” to think or say, “Yeah, but you must not have a sincere desire to help people or you’d be a nurse or a paramedic. You’re just doing that for the money.”
As if nurses or paramedics don’t also work for money?
Look, the less romantic view of the world is that, it’s great that you have something that brings you passion and fulfilment in your life, but if that’s your career – and kudos if it is – it’s also going to have to make you money. I have a sneaking suspicion if I told my landlord tomorrow that I’d decided to stop paying him rent, and instead was going to pay in free blood pressure checks and physical exams, I’d probably be without an apartment pretty quick.
I want to deliver babies. Personally, for me, one of the pros of medicine over midwifery or nursing was the ability to earn a greater income: to support myself, my future family, for necessities and yes, for indulgences. Does that mean that I’m not going to also give my patients 110%, that I’m not going to work hard and enjoy my career?
No, of course it doesn’t.
But I’m going to take a stab at answer my own question from above, and say that when the idea of earning money became a dirty idea for physicians was right around the same time people started needing to cut budgets. Because, if you look at the situation now in Ontario, and the public response to the cutting of doctors fees, you can see that governments and organizations benefit from this myth of doctors as entitled, Richy Riches. Because that way, when they go to cut fees, the public aren’t asking important questions like:
“Wait, how will this effect my quality of healthcare?” or
“Wait don’t we already have an thinly spread out healthcare system that needs more funding and not less?” or
“Is this going to make recruiting doctors to areas that are in desperate need of them – like rural or intercity areas – even harder now?”
Because those, and many, many more questions are the sort that need answering when funding for healthcare and doctors gets cut.
Not, “Oh darn, will this effect my doctors ability to make their BMV payments?”
Money isn’t a dirty word, and physicians, just like any other professional, aren’t sleezy for wanting to get paid for the work they do.
*Also, apologies if I sound flip, and for any vitriol. This is just a subject that kind of bugs me!*