A recent editorial in The New York Times, written by a physician who works at Bellevue Hospital in New York, has seemed to attract a lot of public attention. In “The Business of Health Care Depends on Exploiting Doctors and Nurses,” Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, argues that physicians and nurses are victims.
Dr. Ofri offers some examples:
- Your elderly patient’s son needs to talk to you urgently during your daughter’s recital > You work a double shift at the hospital to cover for your colleague who has a family emergency
- You have a patient for a 15-minute scheduled visit, but the patient is complex and requires 45 minutes.
According to the editorial, the immediate reaction of doctors and nurses to do the right thing for patients “is being cynically manipulated.”
“If doctors and nurses clocked out when the paid hours were finished, the effect on patients would be calamitous. Doctors and nurses know this, which is why they don’t shirk. The system knows it, too, and takes advantage.”
The author, apparently a primary-care doctor, asserts that these demands on doctors have “escalated relentlessly in the past few decades,” patients are sicker today, electronic medical records take too much doctor time, resources are being misallocated, and doctors are burning out.
The article cites a Harvard Business Review statistic that for every doctor there are 10 non-doctor workers performing administrative and management duties. The author proposes that at least half of those positions should be given to nurses and doctors: “Heath care is about taking care of patients, not paperwork.”
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Peter J. McDonnell, MD
E: [email protected]; P: 443/287-1511
Dr. McDonnell is the director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times.
1. Danielle Ofri. New York Times, June 8, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/opinion/sunday/hospitals-doctors-nurses-burnout.html