I have never been a helicopter mom. I don’t think my children are perfect (though they come pretty close). When they fought with friends, I didn’t assume that they were automatically innocent victims. My children learned how to cook, do the laundry and clean up after themselves at a young age. I have never called a teacher to protest a grade, nor have I written school papers for my kids. I have certainly never shown up at a job interview with one of them, at least past the age of ten.
But there’s a time when enough is enough and this mama bear is ready to go on the warpath. You see, to the utter amazement of my husband and myself, two of our children are in the medical field. Our son is an emergency room physician and our daughter, after a number of years of nursing on a general ward and in the Intensive Care Unit, is now on her way to becoming a nurse anesthetist.
This has given us a bit of an inside view into the medical profession. We have watched our children and their peers work 12 hour shifts and more. We have seen them heartbroken by patients’ deaths. We have sensed their frustration at giving their all to save a patient who they know will be back in the hospital soon after release because she won’t change her self-destructive behavior. We have watched in awe as these doctors and nurses pushed themselves beyond human limits to help those in need. We cheered as they got jobs with good salaries that let them start paying back the exorbitant amount of debt they accumulated while training.
As a consumer, I’m certainly aware that pencil-pushers, bureaucrats and politicians have taken over the medical field. My husband and my premiums have soared as our coverage has dropped. But to someone who, like all of us, will need medical help for myself or for those I love at some point, bureaucratic behavior that discourages and disheartens doctors and nurses is incredibly stupid.
What is going on? Serendipitously, as I was planning this Musing, I read an essay by Cal Thomas entitled, The Doctor is (Not) In. I encourage you to read it as well, but I want to add my perspective.
I am furious at watching my children and their peers be demoralized, demeaned and devalued.
Here’s one example: In many locations, doctors and nurses are no longer referred to as doctors and nurses. They are now called medical providers. That catchall term is also applied to anyone providing any service to the patient. For all I know, if you take a taxi to the hospital, the driver too is your provider. Now, being a taxi driver, an ultrasound technician, a nutritionist or any one of hundreds of different occupations is perfectly honorable and praiseworthy. But you may have noticed that the star of a movie gets different billing than the costume designer, grip or camera operator, important as they are. The byline on the lead article in your morning paper has a writer’s name; it doesn’t say, “one of the journalism team”. Doctors and nurses are not just part of the team, though they are that as well. They, (and doctors rank above nurses in this) have spent more time, money and life blood to do what they are doing. Their responsibility and stress level is higher. They deserve their titles as well as their higher salaries.
Speaking of those salaries, one of the stupidest ideas is setting the pay and/or bonuses of doctors and nurses on the basis of patients rating the treatment they received. Whenever a professional’s performance is rated by members of the public, surely some in depth analysis is needed. Here are some anecdotes I’ve heard now that I frequently find myself surrounded by physicians and nurses.
There’s the nurse who had a patient apologize to her, saying that though she has been a great nurse, the patient is going to rank her low because, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
There’s the doctor who wouldn’t prescribe antibiotics because it wasn’t called for in her medical opinion, who not only got ranked low by a patient who was sure he needed antibiotics, but the patient, in his pique, also added an incendiary allegation to his evaluation, throwing an accusation of racism into the mix.
Or how about the patient’s family who hovered around her bed, camera phone at the ready, getting in the nurse’s way and baiting her, hoping that they could find a way to sue the hospital because it had a history of settling cases rather than fighting them?
And what of the doctor attacked by an awakening drug addict, supposedly protected by a security guard on duty for that reason, except that the security guard is not allowed to touch patients? It’s kind of hard to stop a punch without touching the person throwing the punch.
I could go on and on. These medical professionals then sometimes have their pay docked or miss out on bonuses when these (word deleted because when it came to it, I couldn’t use it) give them bad reports.
I get that there are bad doctors and bad nurses. Sometimes patients are mistreated and even abused. How about a system that finds the bad eggs and punishes them severely rather than a system that infantilizes all doctors and nurses while tying their hands behind their backs so they cannot give the best medical care? Or maybe we should have two sets of hospitals and doctors’ offices. One for decent, moral patients and one for those without principles who are taking advantage of fellow citizens and medical professionals alike.
So, if on your way to the hospital next time, you are stopped by a helicopter mom wanting to make sure that you actually need care and will be a respectful patient, it just might be me.